Literary Form and Cultural Function in the Eighteenth-Century
We will learn not only about important literary texts from late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Britain, but also about the critical categories and terms literary historians use to describe the major genres and socio-cultural movements of this period. We will read a "heroic drama" by John Dryden and a "comedy of manners" by William Congreve in order to understand cultural values, and the "sex/gender system," important to the "Restoration." We will read an early novella by Aphra Behn and other prose narratives by Daniel Defoe, in order to think about the overseas locations and domestic concerns that made possible the "rise of the novel." We will also read poems by Alexander Pope, Stephen Duck, Mary Collier, Oliver Goldsmith and George Crabbe, in order to follow the "growth of consumer culture" in this period and to understand the different ways in which writers "fetishized women's bodies." Duck and Collier will teach us about the concerns of "working-class poets," and Goldsmith and Crabbe will debate for us the social impact of "enclosure" and the growth of large land-holdings, as well as detail for us the pitfalls of poets who would write poems of social protest. We will also consider the ways in which these texts enable us to understand the culture of "Great Britain," that is, the culture of an imperial nation. We will also read a variety of critical materials as guides to help us develop our sense of the argument and idiom of compelling literary criticism.