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Land, Labor, and Literature in the Long Eighteenth Century

ENGL 748.401
crosslisted as: COML 620, SAST 648
T 6-9:00

In the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, literary writing engaged strenuously with shifts and innovations in forms of landownership and labor, both within England and then across the lands that came under British control. Even when they celebrated changes attendant upon the capitalization of land and labor at home and in plantation society, many writers were aware of social costs. The vocabularies they developed in order to diagnose and condemn these costs continue to be important for analysts of the continuing privatization, across the world, of resources held in common, as well as to those who recognize the beginnings of the holocene-anthropocene transition in land use policies developed in this period. We will read writing in a variety of literary genres, appropriate literary criticism, as well as key texts in social and labor history.

Students will make one class presentation, which will then be reworked into a 5-6 page paper to be submitted one week after the presentation. The class presentation will be patterned along the lines of a talk given at a conference panel; that is, it should be finished piece of prose that presents an argument in 12-15 minutes. Your final project will be a research paper (5000-6000 words long) on a topic that you must arrive at in consultation with the instructor. Students who do not plan to specialize in late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century studies and who have developed interests in other literary-historical fields are allowed to produce an annotated bibliography as their final project. This bibliography will be developed in consultation with the instructor, and should link the student’s field of expertise with topics explored in this seminar. It will typically include four or more books and six to eight articles or their equivalent. The annotated bibliography will be prefaced by a five or six page introduction; the whole will add up to between 5000 and 6000 words of prose.