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ENGL 4380: The Late Eighteenth Century
Spring 2005

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


What's wrong with writing popular literature-- what is it? opiate of the people or just plain relaxing fun? corrupt profiteering or glimpses of utopian dreams? What are prisons supposed to do-- punish or reform? are they retribution or the "correction" of what society has failed to teach a person? What's wrong with women-- how different are they from men? is it nature or nurture? is marriage the purpose of their lives? What should we do with the Native Americans and their culture? Is true art "worth the cost"-- what value does it actually have?

These are some of the questions that we still ask today that were pressing issues in the late eighteenth century. The ways the people and literature of that time formulated and addressed them continue to shape our own thinking. This course will take up each of these topics, and students will be encouraged to make connections between their time and ours and to become an expert on the topic of most interest to them.

The readings cover a range from the canonical to the popular and have been chosen to encourage thinking from different points of view. For instance, Oliver Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield has long been taught in college classes; it is a "courtship novel" but also contains a little-noticed, detailed plan for a model prison. The History of Emily Montague is one of the first novels partially set in North America, and the characters meet the French, French Canadians, Huron Indians, and "old Americans"-- the colonists who are our forebears. Other representative readings: Blue-Beard, She Stoops to Conquer, and important literary works by Johnson and Gray.

Requirements: Class participation, short papers and presentations, a 12-15 page paper, final exam.


January 8: Introduction

10: Principles and Issues in High/ Low Culture: Blue-Beard by George Colman

15: She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

17: High and Low Culture; "Indoctrination" vs. "Resistance"

22: The Mogul Tale by Elizabeth Inchbald

24: Reading from Dominic Strinati

29: The Belle's Stratagem by Hannah Cowley

31: Presentations

February 5: Presentations

7: Gray, pp. 322-29 in Eighteenth-Century Poetry (listed hereafter as ECP)

12: Gray, Elegy in a Country Church-yard (ECP)

14: Gray, "The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard" (ECP)

19: Finch, "A Nocturnal Reverie" (p. 33) and Collins "Ode to Evening" (p. 347) (ECP)

21: Reading Day: Pope's "Epistle to Arbuthnot," Mary Jones' "Epistle to Lady Bowyer" (ECP), and Mary Barber's "To a Lady Who Commanded Me to send her an Account in Verse, how I succeeded in my Subscription"

26: Presentations

28: Reading from Strinati

March 5: Reading from Strinati

7: The History of Emily Montague, to p.

12: The History of Emily Montague (entire book)

14: Presentations

19: Discussion of novel

21: Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village," p. 419 (ECP)

April 2: Eighteenth-century criminal law and prisons

4: Samuel Johnson, The Life of Richard Savage

9: Johnson, "The Vanity of Human Wishes" p. 263 (ECP)

11: Discussion

16: Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield

18: Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield

23: Reading from Strinati

25: PAPERS DUE and Presentations

30: Presentations

Final Exam