Age of Capital: From Realism to Decadence - CP636

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The module examines the development of nineteenth-century European fiction against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution and its social and cultural effects. It argues that the emergence of realism, naturalism and decadence as literary movements constituted not only responses to social change but were also artistic revolutions in themselves. A representative selection of writers, including Balzac, Eliot, Zola and Huysmans, will be studied. The module will also make reference to poetry (Baudelaire, Swinburne) where necessary and to the visual arts of the period. Themes will include: modes of literary production, class and economic conditions, gender, sexuality and desire, science and technology, religion and aesthetics, and the social positions of men and women.


Contact hours

The module will be taught by means of a two-hour seminar for ten weeks, which will be comprised of small group work and a student presentation.

Method of assessment

100% coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative list:
Balzac, H. de (1991) Pe`re Goriot, London: Penguin
Eliot, G. (1999) The Mill on the Floss, London: Penguin
Huysmans, J-K. (2003) Against Nature, London: Penguin Books
Tolstoy, L. (2001) Anna Karenina, London: Penguin
Wilde, O. (2008) The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oxford: Oxford World's Classics
Zola, E. (2004) Germinal, London: Penguin

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
8.1 Demonstrate familiarity with significant examples of nineteenth-century European fiction;
8.2 Display knowledge and critical understanding of the intellectual and historical contexts for an understanding of 'realism', 'naturalism' and ‘decadence’;
8.3 Critically assess different approaches to the literary representation of social reality;
8.4 Compare nineteenth-century European fiction with the legacy of Romanticism and the beginnings of Modernism;
8.5 Demonstrate close reading and analytical skills, including the application of critical thinking to the study of literature;
8.6 Conduct independent research, including critical responses to the primary reading list for the module.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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