Section Information for Spring 2017
The later eighteenth century—from the time of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) through to the War of American Independence (1776-83) and the wars with republican and Napoleonic France that ensued after the French Revolution (1789)—was an era of momentous cultural and political energy and innovation in the English-speaking world and on the wider global stage, a period in which the modernizing dynamics of the Enlightenment continued to transform ancien régime societies and elicited countervailing dynamics of conservatism and reaction. In this course, we will examine a number of the notable British literary works of the era and seek to understand the cultural developments of the age through these works. This era is sometimes referred to as “the Age of Johnson” and course readings will include a selection of Samuel Johnson’s Rambler essays (1750-52) and Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), as well as James Bowell’s Life of Johnson (1791); poems such as Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard (1751), Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village (1770), George Crabbe’s The Village (1783), William Cowper’s The Task (1785), and Robert Burns’s Poems (1786); and polemical works from the era of the French Revolution such as Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason (1794), as well as the emergent gothic literature exemplified by Matthew Lewis’s The Monk (1796) and Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian (1797). The course fulfills the pre-1800 requirement for English majors and familiarizes students with major works and developments in the prose and poetry of the era.