The eighteenth century is often regarded as the moment at which modern literary culture begins. The sentimental novel, poetic satire, travel writing, the periodical essay, and the slave biography are among the new modes of writing to surface in this period. This century also witnessed a large expansion of the print market and the beginning of a gradual commercialisation of reading culture. This course will survey the developments in British literature and culture during this period where social relations were being reconstituted through new norms of polite civility, and the emerging ideology of the sovereign individual. We will read poetry, journalism, and prose fiction in light of the period’s key concepts, including the enlightenment, the self, and the public sphere. In particular, our discussions will focus on the theme of enlightenment, and the new ideals attached to reason and rationality. Readings may include Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko; Margaret Cavendish’s Description of a New World; Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe; Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels; Alexander Pope’s The Dunciad; Oliver Goldsmith’s Chinese Letters; and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams.
The Eighteenth Century is often described as an age of enlightened reason. This subject will examine literary texts that explore areas of life that exist in tense opposition to the ideals of enlightenment rationality, such as slavery; sentimentality; luxury; superstition; madness; revolution; and genocide.
We will meet twice a week, for a 2 hour lecture, and an hour-long small group tutorial. There is also an ongoing Moodle forum for information and discussion, where students can share their views and questions with each other and with the course teacher. Important supplementary material will also be posted on the Moodle. There is thus a substantial interactive element to this course. And of course students are encouraged to also consult the course teacher/ tutor in regular office hours or by appointment.
Course assessment is 100% coursework comprising one textual analysis exercise (25%); one Research Presentation (20%); one research paper (45%); and class participation (10%)
Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved formal extension will be penalised at 2% per day. Students who fail to submit up to 2-weeks after the final due date without a formal extension will receive a fail grade for the piece of assessment.
Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko (1688)
Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1745)
Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa (1789)
It is recommended that you purchase Penguin Classics’ editions of these texts.
An additional course reader containing critical scholarship, as well as excerpts from other primary texts will be available.