Thursday, 21 December 2017

The English Review Vol. 6 | Icons of Decadence

Icons of Decadence is probably my favourite English course so far, I enjoyed the lectures, tutorials and reading list.

The Victorian Era, especially towards the turn of the century which this course focused on, was one incredibly concerned with change and the future of the race. How the Victorians challenged and tried to restabilise gender norms is of particular interest to me and all the texts on the reading list helped build a picture of the different arguments during the era.

The course really made me love the Victorian era and want to continue reading in the period. Far from being stuffy and boring, Victorian literature is just as engaging and dramatic as any modern lit. The reading list for Icons has a few really great examples (and some not so great) of Victorian literature to get stuck into…

Reading list: Women Who Did (selected short stories) ed. by Angelique Richardson, The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle, She by H. Rider Haggard, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Beach of Falesá by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Peter and Wendy and Peter in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie.
It’s nice to occasionally have a topic that you enjoy almost everything on the reading list. The only one I really didn’t like was Rider Haggard’s She, which was long and uneventful until the last quarter and, even then, was questionable in the entertaining stakes. I wasn’t fond of The Beach of Falesá either, but it had more interest in its story and subsequent tutorial discussion than She.

I loved picking up a Sherlock Holmes novel again and the Women Who Did short stories were so interesting that I’m planning on reading the others that weren’t on the list. Someone complained that they were a bit too didactic, but I couldn’t help but be drawn to the voices of women trying to alter deeply seated notions of what it was to be a woman.

And my top three novels of the course, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula and Peter and Wendy. They are all deserving of a whole post of their own, there is so much to find entertaining and worthy of analysis in them. Particularly interesting to me is how they showcased ideas and ideals surrounding gender in the late-Victorian period. They also have engaging stories and characters. I highly recommend all three!

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