This course will read writers that for decades were grouped under such rubrics as "The Age of Sensibility" (as if sentimentality then ended), "The age of Johnson" (as if the age could be represented by one man), and "Preromanticism" (as if writers could anticipate a movement not yet begun). In jettisoning such terms, one of the challenges facing cultural historians of these decades has been how to reconfigure its texts in ways that acknowledge the incredibly diverse and experimental nature of its writing. In addition to reading primary texts, therefore, we'll also discuss the issues of periodization, authorship, and canon formation raised by them. Course participants should expect to read essays by Marilyn Butler, Michel Foucault, Fredric Jameson, Marjorie Levinson, Alan Liu, Marlon Ross, and Martha Woodmansee during the semester.
Course readings will be taken from the following authors and texts; prospective students are urged to suggest further texts that would enhance the course:
Fiction: Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling (1771); Fanny Burney, Evelina (1778); William Godwin, Caleb Williams (1794); Robert Bage, Hermsprong; Or, Man as He Is Not (1796); Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (1797); Maria Edgeworth, Castle Rackrent.
Drama: Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal (1777); Hannah Cowley, A Bold Stroke for a Husband (1784); Elizabeth Inchbald, Such Things Are (1788) and Every Man Has His Fault (1793); Matthew Lewis, The Castle Spectre (1798); George Colman the Younger, Bluebeard (1798); and Joanna Baillie, Count Basil (1798), The Trial (1798), and De Monfort (1798).
Poetry: Selected poems by Anna Barbauld, Hannah More, Charlotte Smith, William Cowper, Helen Maria Williams, Robert Merry, Hannah Cowley, William Lisle Bowles, Erasmus Darwin, Mary Robinson, Samuel Coleridge, Robert Southey, and William Wordsworth.
Non-Fiction Prose: Works by James Boswell, Anna Barbauld, Olaudah Equiano, Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Maria Edgeworth.
There will be a number of responses and a final essay.