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Generic Change in 18th Century Literature

ENGL 540.301
W 9-12


In practice, literary genres are never static but dynamic, adapting or even transforming themselves according to shifts in audience expectations and changing historical conditions of production and reception. In this course, we will test that proposition by reading a number of eighteenth-century works that constitute opposing pairs, attempting to gauge what lies behind generic shifts and even transformations and innovations. Here are some of the pairs of works or groups of works we will consider: Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Swift's Gulliver's Travels; Pope's Moral Essays and Swift's satirical verses; odes and elegies by a range of poets, from Dryden to Cowper; Thomson's Seasons ("Spring" and "Winter") and Cowper's The Task ("The Garden" and "The Winter Evening"); Swift’s A Tale of a Tub and Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, and Johnson's Life of Savage and Boswell's Life of Johnson.

One in-class presentation and two papers, one short (5-7 pages) and one longer (10-15 pages) will be required.


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