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Topics in 18th Century Literature

ENGL 241.401
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

More men and women blush, weep, gnash their teeth, or fling themselves out of windows, against walls, or at the feet of parents in the literature of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries than perhaps any other, and this course on its most fundamental level will explore why writers in these decades were so obsessed with emotion and its explosive significance. Put generally, we will explore what literary historians traditionally have called the Age of Sensibility, a movement (approximately 1740-1840) that dovetails with Romanticism and extends even into early Victorian writing. Because it claimed to explain human behavior, pleasure, and motivation, sensibility figured centrally in the political, religious, philosophical, and psychological debates of these years. We therefore will define sensibility out of its empiricist roots in the Scottish Enlightenment and explore its popularization in Graveyard Poetry and Sentimental Fiction, Gothic fiction and drama, and the writing we usually associate with "Romanticism." Our primary authors will be some familiar and others unfamiliar. The tentative list includes Jane Austen, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Joanna Baillie, Charlotte Bronte, Lord Byron, Edmund Burke, Samuel Coleridge, William Collins, William Cowper, The Della Cruscan Poets, Erasmus Darwin, Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Gray, John Keats, Henry Mackenzie, Hannah More, Ann Radcliffe, Friedrich Schiller, Walter Scott, Percy and Mary Shelley, Charlotte Smith, Lawrence Sterne, Helen Maria Williams, William Wordsworth.

This course requires that you have an e-mail account and that you use it. There will be bi-weekly responses, a short paper, a presentation, a final paper, and a final exam.