In this course, we will study literature, philosophy, and pictorial art produced in England from roughly 1660 to 1789, the ‘long eighteenth century,’ a long century bracketed by two revolutionary moments. After a political experiment that began in 1642 with the execution of king Charles I and parliament governing England, the monarchy was restored in 1660, and Charles II took the throne; then, in 1789, the French Revolution occurs, ushering in an age of violent political turmoil that inspired further experimentation with political systems other than monarchy, which had a lasting impact on England and other European countries. In between these two social transformations, eighteenth-century England witnesses the emergence of conflicts based on race, class, and gender, with the massive increase in the slave trade, the advancement of capitalism, and a renewed debate on women’s status and rights.
To explore the ways that this culture debated notions of liberty, often defined in contrast to the radical loss of freedom embodied by the condition of enslavement, we will read a variety of texts, including poetry, drama, and prose by William Wycherley, Aphra Behn, Rochester, Jonathan Swift, Mary Astell, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, John Locke, Olaudah Equiano, and Mary Wollstonecraft, among others. Throughout the semester, we will explore the ways that English culture processes the intertwined impacts of a globalizing capitalism and the slave trade, with special attention to their legacies in the contemporary moment, in England and beyond.
Greenblatt, Stephen, General Editor. Tenth Edition. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century. New York: W.W. Norton, 2018.
Wycherley, William. The Country Wife. James Ogden, ed. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings. New York: Penguin, 2003.
Mary Wollstonecraft. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and A Vindication of the Rights of Men. Janet Todd, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Student Learning Outcomes:
In this course, students will:
- Practice reading literary and philosophical texts critically and appreciate how genre shapes content
- Acquire a sense of the literary history of the long eighteenth century, ranging from the 1660s to the 1790s.
- Gain an understanding of literature’s potential and limits as a source for cultural history
- Improve their skills in incorporating and documenting secondary scholarship when crafting an argumentative essay
Methods of Assessment:
Response Papers (2 x 650 words) 30%
Blog Responses (5 x 50 words at a minimum) 10%
Final Exam (1200 words) 20%
Final Paper (2000 words) 30%