Lecture – In the last decade of the 19th century, the culture of the British Empire appeared to be marked by a sense of irretrievable decline. Readings from these seven English fictions will explore ways in which that perception of loss was cast into archetypal narratives, myths of transfiguration which sought to account for the culture’s troubles, if not to assuage its anxieties.
She (Rider Haggard) 1887
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde) 1891
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Conan Doyle) 1891
The Jungle Book (Rudyard Kipling) 1894
The Time Machine (H.G. Wells) 1896
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (R.L. Stevenson) 1896
Dracula (Bram Stoker) 1897
Close attention will be paid to representations in these works of three forms of fin de siècle decline—national, biological, and aesthetic—which late-Victorian degeneration theories utilized to “explain” how the nation’s twin obsessions with Decadence and Imperialism became intertwined in the iconography as well as the mythology of the period.
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