Epistolary Fiction in a European Frame
The late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries together constitute the great age of epistolary fiction in Britain. The form proliferated starting in the 1660s, but by 1800 all-epistolary novels were becoming much less popular. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the use of letters as plot catalysts or framing devices continued to inform British fiction; and all-epistolary fiction has enjoyed a notable resurgence in recent years. This course will consider the strategies, functions, and complex appeal of British epistolary fiction in its Restoration and eighteenth-century heyday, focusing on the work of Aphra Behn, Elizabeth Singer Rowe, and Samuel Richardson, among others. We shall also consider Continental sources and analogues such as Guilleragues’s (attrib.) Lettres Portugaises, Graffigny’s Lettres d'une Péruvienne, Rousseau’s Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse, and von La Roche’s Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim. Required texts and class discussions will be in English.