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Staging London: Urban and Gothic Spectacle

ENGL 241.950
instructor(s):

This course will chart the changing conditions of dramatic and poetic performances in London Theatre in the 18th and 19th centuries. We also will tip this focus upon its head by exploring the ways that "London" stages itself as a set of spectacles and shows. This means that we will read, whenever possible, plays and poems that focus themselves on London or in which London plays a major role. Likely texts include Swift's poetry of urban decay, Gay's Beggar's Opera, Sheridan's The Rivals, Burney's Evelina, Blake's Songs of Experience, Wordsworth's sonnets and "London" section of The Prelude, and Charles Martin's Bertram, and the last cantos of Byron's Don Juan. In addition, we will combine these readings with tours of East London, Regents Park, the British Museum and the London Zoo, Kew Gardens, several Bazaars, Nelson's Monument, Chancery Lane, Madame Tussaud's, and more. Our goal will be to gain a sense both of how British drama became more grandiose and spectacular as the 19th century turned, and how this appetite for spectacle transformed London not only into a center for tourism but also into a monument unto itself.