This course is discontinued

ENG4421 – Reading the British Fin de Siècle

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

The Fin de Siècle (‘the end of the century’) is, in spite of or in addition to, its associations with endings, apocalypse, decadence, and degeneration, an unusually energetic, lively, self-conscious and open period in British literary and cultural life. In 20th-century historiography it has often been portrayed as being ‘caught between two ages, the Victorian and the Modern’ (Ledger/Luckhurst), as being characterized by transition.

In this course we will attempt to study and analyze this period on its own merits, with an interest in what was going on in the British cultural field in the 1890s in particular. This means that we will be reading a range of different works of fiction and drama and relate these works to contemporary discourses on degeneration, urban problems, ‘The New Woman’, ‘New Journalism’, imperialism, socialism, as well as with an eye to a number of developments in science, psychology and sexology.

We will study how art, and literature more particularly, played a part in drawing attention to cultural anxieties and in exploring ‘the new’, and we will consider the period’s relationship to foreignness and cultural imports from abroad. We will reflect on the possible artistic and other outcomes of times of crises, of living through a volatile period characterized by (perceived) endings and new beginnings.

Learning outcome

After completing this course you will have:

  • acquired an overview of the central issues which were at stake in British cultural and political life at the end of the nineteenth century;
  • engaged closely with a number of key texts from the period, both literary and non-literary ones;
  • developed ways of thinking about the relationship between texts and contexts, as well as, more specifically, about the role of art in times of (perceived) transition;
  • developed your skills in literary interpretation and cultural analysis.


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Admission to the European and American Literature Studies program or LeP.

The course has a capacity of 15 students.  ILOS will not provide additional capacity if there are more applicants.


Seminar, two hours per week for ten weeks, 20 hours in all.

Attendance is obligatory at least 8 out of 10 seminars, as well as contributions in the form of one oral presentation (pass/fail). Additional absences must be justified by documentation given to the exam coordinator.


The assessment of the course is based on a term paper of approximately ten pages (4000 words). The topic for the term paper will be determined by the teacher and student together.

Students are required to submit the term paper at an appointed time. Beforehand, students will be given an opportunity to submit a draft of the term paper and receive individual feedback on both the form and content of the draft.

You submit your paper in Fronter in the course's "fellesrom". Read more about submission procedures

The term paper is the basis for the grade in this course.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

A term paper or equivalent that is passed may not be resubmitted in revised form.

If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


Feedback from our students is essential if we are to provide the best possible education. As a student at the University of Oslo you will be asked to participate in various types of evaluation of our courses. Every time a course is given, we ask students to participate in mid-term evaluations, and periodically we ask them to participate in periodic evaluation of the course.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






Not offered spring 2014.


Teaching language