The seduction and betrayal of innocence was a thematic preoccupation for British writers in the decades that followed the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660. Representations of seduction interrogated not only particular kinds of sexual relationships but also some of the largest political questions being asked in British discourse at the time -- questions about agency, autonomy, authority and responsibility.
In this upper-division seminar, we shall examine seduction stories in several genres that appeared between the Restoration and the publication of Samuel Richardson's Pamela in 1740, one of the most influential and controversial seduction stories ever written. We shall ask questions like these: Why were plots of seduction so important at this time? How did late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century writers define seduction? Did they distinguish seduction from rape? What was at stake in such a distinction, who made it, and when? How did eighteenth-century writers represent female desire, male desire? How might stories about sexual betrayal, and the debates over gendered responsibility they sparked and crystallized, be related to developing legal theories of contract and consent, or to changing structures of political authority?
Our emphasis will be on primary material and independent library research. Students will work actively in a collegial, exploratory seminar environment. The course is designed for advanced English majors, and will be most useful to those intending to go on to graduate school in English or in a research field.