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Topics in 18th Century Novel: Writing Seduction 1660-1800

ENGL 345.301
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

Eighteenth-century writers and readers were fascinated by seduction stories, and used them for many purposes. In the process of interrogating power dynamics within sexual relationships, seduction stories raised resonant political questions and participated in pressing public debates -- debates about the meanings of national identity, about appropriate uses and locations of authority, and about the limits of responsibility in relations of inequality. In this seminar, we shall examine novels, drama, poetry, and expository prose, asking questions like these: Why were plots of seduction so important during the eighteenth century? How did the eighteenth century define seduction? How did it distinguish seduction from rape and courtship, and what was at stake in making such distinctions? How did eighteenth-century writers represent female desire, male desire? How might the theme of seduction be related to developing legal theories of contract and consent, or to changing structures of political authority?

The course's emphasis will be on reading (especially of primary material) and thoughtful class participation. Other requirements: three oral reports accompanied by annotated bibliographies, a preliminary paper abstract, and a final 10-page paper.