English 241:
Sensibility and Its Discontents

Texts and Coursepack
Office Hours and Basic Information
Course Description
Computer Information
Course Policies
Course Assignments
Course Readings and Calendar
Handouts for the course


Professor: Michael Gamer
Office and Phone: 203 Bennett Hall, (215) 898-7346
Office Hours: Tuesday 12:15-2:30 p.m, Thursday by appointment.
WATU Tutor: Aselda Thompson
Aselda Thompson's Office, Phone, and Office Hours: TBA


Books: Available at Penn Book Center, 3726 Walnut Ave., 222-7600.
Coursepack: Available at Wharton Reprographics, Basement of Wharton School, Locust Walk.


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, trace its evolution in Gothic and German drama, and end with writing we usually associate with "Romanticism." Our primary authors will be some familiar and others unfamiliar: Jane Austen, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Joanna Baillie, Edmund Burke, Samuel Coleridge, The Della Cruscan Poets, Thomas Gray, Elizabeth Inchbald, August von Kotzebue, Henry Mackenzie, Hannah More, Friedrich Schiller, Adam Smith, Friedrich Schiller, Charlotte Smith, Lawrence Sterne, Helen Maria Williams, and William Wordsworth. There will be weekly responses, a short paper, a presentation, a long paper, and a final exam.


This course does require you to have an electronic mail account and to use the world wide web. I do this because I use electronic mail as my chief way of making course announcements, sending out reminders, and communicating with you. This course will have an electronic listserver that will have all of the class members' names on it. If you send a message to gamer241@dept.english.upenn.edu, your message will go to everyone in the class. This way, you will be able to do many things:

Important Computer Addresses:


Assignments and Graded Work for the Course


A Note on Late Work and Extensions: During the semester, I DO NOT ACCEPT LATE DRAFTS. If you do not make the deadline for the short or long essay, it does not directly affect your grade; you simply lose that opportunity for me to read your work and provide you with feedback. I do this because I do not want anything to do with the hassles of students asking for extensions, bringing excuses, etc. I will only read each paper you write once before the portfolio. However, I am happy to discuss work in progress with you during my office hours or by appointment; and will be very happy to talk with you about an essay that I've commented upon.

Part One: Sensibility in Theory and in Practice.

Part Two: Problems of Excess.

Part Three: German Sensibility and Its Importation into Britain.