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Topics in 18th Century Literature

ENGL 241.402
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

Although we usually consider eighteenth-century writing according to its national allegiance (English, American), this is somewhat artificial; there are compelling reasons to consider English-language literature in the eighteenth century as a transatlantic phenomenon. So-called American literature was, for most of the century (until Independence) a colonial branch of English literature, and even after the Revolution American writers looked to England for literary models and for critical approval. Conversely, English literature was marked in various ways by its imperial horizon-the fact that England was the governing center of a widespread English-speaking empire. In this course we'll explore these issues, reading some English-language literature that ordinarily escapes the purview of "English" and "American" courses (for example, the emerging Anglo-African, African-American, and African-Caribbean literature in English of this period), and we'll also read some more familiar works of the period in the light of their transatlantic content and their transatlantic circulation. The English novelist and actress Susanna Rowson wrote the novel that was most popular in the US at the time, *Charlotte Temple* (1791/94). Benjamin Franklin spent many years in England, publishing scientific papers and newspaper polemics; much of his *Autobiography* was written there. Earlier, as a Philadelphia printer, the first novel he published was Richardson's *Pamela*. An English immigrant, Thomas Paine, wrote the most famous pamphlet of the Revolutionary cause, *Common Sense* (1775). Scientific and philosophical exchanges; English republican political philosophy as an ideology of American independence; the literature of transatlantic religious revival; English travel-writing as it represented the New World; antislavery writing as a transatlantic literary formation: these topics may be among those we consider.