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ENGL 4320: Conflict, Conquest and Rise of Popular Culture
Spring 2012

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091

Required Texts:

  • Custom Course Package, (Broadview, 2011) ISBN 1554590485
  • The History of Emily Montague, by Frances Brooke (McClelland & Stewart, 1995) ISBN 0771034571
  • The Excursion, by Frances Brooke (University Press of Kentucky,1997) ISBN 9780813108810
  • History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson, by Edward Kimber (Broadview, 2008) ISBN 9781551117034
  • Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith (Penguin, 1982) ISBN 0140431594

Course Description:

Wits, coquettes, poets, prisoners, people willing to die for their religion and others willing to write on both sides of every political issue for a pocketful of change– A time and a literature that gave us the modern novel, our tax system, literary criticism, the modern prison, mass culture, hymns we still sing, glittering comedies, touching romantic plays and novels and some of the most scathing satires ever written. In this discussion course, we will acknowledge the fact that Britain was almost continually at war, and that sent its people to distant lands to seek new, better lives, to exploit resources, and to conquer and even enslave those they encountered. In part of the course, we will focus on North America and the experiences and issues writers felt most important. By 1820, one-fourth of the world’s people were part of the British Empire, and London was the greatest trading hub the world has ever known. England became rich and had time for leisure activities, such as shopping and parading about pleasure gardens. People saw “accomplishments” as a way to raise their social status, and writers responded by modeling social problems and personal aspirations. For instance, a major conflict was over changing ideas of marriage. What is it? A union of souls? A contract? What do people expect of it? Hope from it? How should married men and women behave toward one another? New kinds of plays, poetry, and novels were written that reflected the changes the nation was undergoing.



Jan. 10: Introduction

12: Selections from the Tatler, (no. 222), the Spectator (nos. 2, 324), and the Female Spectator; from Tobias Smollett, Humphrey Clinker.

17: Chapter 6, “Noisy,” and Chapter 8, “Dirty,” from Hubbub: Filth, Noise, and Stench in England: Selections from the Spectator (no. 66, 75); Jonathan Swift, “A description of the Morning” and “A Description of a City Shower.”

19: Selections from the Spectator, nos. 26, 465, 69, and 21.

24: Tatler, no.116, Spectator, nos. 80, 88, 96.

26: Frances Brooke, The History of Emily Montague with reports on conflicts and conquests.

31: Brooke, continued, with reports on kinds of characters.

Feb. 2: Brooke, continued. Paper due.

7: George Etherege, The Man of Mode.

9: Colley Cibber, Love’s Last Shift.

14: Plays, continued. Spectator, no. 573.

16: Mid-term exam.

Lecture and Reception: Dr. Kristina Straub - 4:30, February 20

21: Richard Sheridan, The School for Scandal. Paper due on Dr. Straub’s talk.

23: Chapters 2 and 8 of Gillian Russell’s Women, Sociability, and Theatre in Georgian London*.

28: Frances Brooke, The Excursion.

March 1: Brooke, continued.

6: Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved and debate.

8: Otway, continued.


20: George Colman, Blue-Beard.

27: Edward Kimber, The History of the Life and Adventures of Mr. Anderson, with reports.

29: Kimber, continued.

April 3: Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield, with reports.

5: Goldsmith, continued. Mary Barber, “The Widow Gordon’s Petition.”**

10: The Abolition Movement and the Wedgewood Medallion. Readings, pp. 212-17, in Mr. Anderson; Spectator no. 11 compared to excerpt, p. 206, in Mr. Anderson.

12: Frances Seymour, An Epistle from Yarrico to Inkle** and “Life at Richkings”**; Mary Robinson, “The Linnet’s Petition”**; and “London’s Summer Morning.”**

17: Amelia Opie, The Black Man’s Lament; or, How to Make Sugar**; The Warrior’s Return**; and “To Winter.”**

19: Anna Barbauld, “On the Deserted Village”**; “The Mouse’s Petition”**; “The Caterpillar”**; “‘Ye are the Salt of the Earth,’”** and “To the Poor.”**

24: Anna Barbauld, Epistle to William Wilberforce, Esq., on the Rejection of the Bill for Abolishing the Slave Trade**; Mary Stockdale, “Song: Fidelle; or, the Negro Child.”**

26: Paper due.

May 4: Final Exam. 4-6:30.

*On reserve in the library
**On Blackboard


January 24. “Conflict and Conquest in Frances Brooke’s History of Emily Montague.”
You will prepare a list in your category and then categorize the items in your list. This will allow us as a class to build a comprehensive list and begin to identify Brooke’s opinions and themes.

You will turn in your categorized list with a brief explanation of what each category represents.

January 26. “Topics in The History of Emily Montague
You will become an expert on a topic and give an 8 minute report to the class that explains the function, or importance, of your topic and its thematic and literary usefulness. Some of the topics are about nationalities and include the Hurons, the French, and the “new Americans.” Some topics are characters, such as Lucy, Ed Rivers, and John Temple. Finally, some topics include agriculture, religion, and the sublime.

January 31. Your paper will be a ten-page development of something you learned or discovered from either or both of your reports. You must have a thesis statement and make a well-supported, well-developed argument. Careful proofreading is taken for granted.

February 14. Mid-term Exam.

February 20. Lecture and reception, Dr. Kristina Straub, Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center, 4:30. Attendance is required.

February 21. One paragraph/ page commentary on the talk and reception.

March 6. “Good and Evil.”
There will be a debate over who the most evil and most virtuous character is in Venice Preserved.

March 27. “The Characters, Conflict and Conquest.”
Each member of the class will be an expert on an aspect of the novel. Choices: the British; the “Americans”; Native Americans; slaves; the French in North America; nationals other than those named above; forcibly separated lovers; preachers; the rich; women; former indentured servants; London as a setting; France as a setting; plantations.
In addition to using your information in class discussion, you should be prepared to give a 2-3 minute informal presentation of your discoveries.

April 3. “Why is the Vicar of Wakefield an example of popular culture?”
Pairs or triads of students will answer questions such as “How do inserted poems, stories, etc., draw upon or contribute to popular culture?” “What incidents seem to be popular culture?” “Why is the book as a whole often written off as popular culture?”

April 26, 4:00 p.m. Paper due.
Your paper will be a fifteen page paper contextualizing a text we have read biographically, historically, literarily, and/ or socially. You should use this contextualizing to make a well-supported argument. You should not recite what you learned in class but take the opportunity to think on your own and write about something that interested you.

Final Exam. May 4, 4-6:30.