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ENGL 7170: Performance and the Making of the Modern World
Spring 2012

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

Required Texts:

  • Custom Course Package, (Broadview, 2011) ISBN 1554590477
  • Colonel Jack, by Daniel Defoe (Kessinger, 2004) ISBN 1419113569
  • Sexual Suspects, by Kristina Straub (Princeton University Press, 1991) ISBN 9780691015156
  • The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems, by Alexander Pope (Penguin, 2003) ISBN 9780451528773
  • A Letter to the Women of England and The Natural Daughter, by Mary Robinson (Broadview, 2002) ISBN 9781551112367

Course Description:

“The eighteenth century offers the historian perhaps the widest range of materials pertaining to the study of performance styles of any period.” Joe Roach, “Power’s Body: The Inscription of Morality as Style.”

The eighteenth century marks the transition into the modern world. As the population increased and England became a global nation newly composed of an incorporating union that swallowed Scotland and a conquered Ireland, the proper study of mankind, as Alexander Pope said, was man. Increasing pressure to behave “properly” and a tendency to define themselves through their projections of “otherness” made performance, “readable” performance, a near obsession. In this seminar, we will work with three case studies. The first is the performance of gender with an emphasis on masculinity. The age-old honor code and the unquestioned patriarchal ideology had to adapt to the new demands for political diplomacy and the stigmatizing of shows of raw power. The second case is performing relationships. From classical times, the friendship of men had been respected above all other relationships. The rising aspirations toward companionate marriage and nuclear rather than extended or even feudal senses of the family brought strong tensions and competitions between these kinds of relationships. The final case is performances of writer. The professional occupation of writer in a commercial market was also new to the eighteenth century, Patronage faded, distinctions between high and low literature emerged, and market segments began to drive publication. What is a “writer” in this new world? What representations of them did they resist or embrace? How do they represent themselves? How did they create the “lonely genius” that we have inherited from the Romantic period?


Jan. 10: Introduction. Tim Hitchcock and Michèle Cohen, eds., Selections from English Masculinities, 1660-1800, pp. 1-22, 164-65, and 217-18**.

17: Daniel Defoe, Col. Jack; Philip Carter, “Men about Town: Representations of Foppery and Masculinity in Early Eighteenth-Century Urban Society” in Gender in Eighteenth-Century England, ed. Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus**; and selection from Thomas King, The Gendering of Men, 1600-1750: Queer Articulations, vol. 2, pp. 11-16**.

24: George Etherege, The Man of Mode; George Farquhar, The Beaux Stratagem; Harold Weber, “Charles III, George Pines, and Mr. Dorimant: The Politics of Sexual Power in Restoration England” in Reading with a Difference: Gender, Race, and Cultural Identity, ed. Arthur F. Marotti, et al.*; and Michael Mangin, “The Spectacle of Masculinity in the Restoration Theatre” in Staging Masculinities*.

31: Colley Cibber, Love’s Last Shift; David Garrick, Miss in her Teens, pp. 18-24**; Samuel Foote, The Englishman Return’d from Paris, pp. 20-21**; Kristina Straub, Sexual Subjects, chapters 1-3; Thomas King, “`There’s a Difference in Men’: The Fop and the Politics of Pleasure” from The Gendering of Men, 1600-1750: The English Phallus, vol. 1, 228-55**.

Feb. 7: Aphra Behn, The Rover; Robert Markley, “`Be Impudent, be saucy, forward, bold, touzing, and leud’: The Politics of Masculine Sexuality and Feminine Desire in Behn’s Tory Comedies” in Cultural Readings of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Theater, ed. J. Douglas Canfield and Deborah C. Payne**. Preliminary reports on character types.

14: Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved; Kristina Straub, Sexual Subjects, chapter 5; Felicity Nussbaum, “`Real, Beautiful Women,’ Rival Queens”**.

21: Professor Straub’s visit to seminar.

28: John Vanbrugh, The Provoked Wife; Richard Sheridan, School for Scandal; Fredric Jameson, “Metacommentary”** .

March 6: John Dryden, All for Love; George Haggerty, “Heroic Friendships” in Men in Love, 23-43**; Kathleen Wilson, Selections from The Sense of the People, pp. 178-205, 276-83**.

Spring Break

March 20: Reports on character types.

27: How did we get here? Charlotte Smith, Preface to Desmond**; Frances Brooke, Preface to the second edition of The Excursion**; Alexander Pope, “The Epistle to Arbuthnot,” 149-63; “The First Epistle of the Second Book of Horace Imitated: To Augustus”**.

April 3: Representation struggles. Alexander Pope, “Of the Uses of Riches,” 129-37, and “Epilogue to the Satires, Dialogue II,” 197-207; Anne Finch, “The Introduction,”** “The Critic and Writer of Fables,”** “Mercury and the Elephant”**; and Philip Carter, “Effeminacy, foppery, and the boundaries of polite society” from Men and the Emergence of Polite Society, Britain 1660-1800**.

10: Mary Robinson, The Natural Daughter.

17: Reports on conceptions of “writer.”

24: Eliza Haywood, from Female Spectator, Book I**, and from The Invisible Spy**; Sarah Dixon, “The Nightingal”** and “The Slattern”**; Mary Darwall, “The Power of Destiny”**; Tatler, no. 229**.

Paper Presentations

*On reserve in the library
**On Blackboard


Because of the nature of the reports, the reading for the seminar has been scaled down. Both reports require exploration and reading. In addition, there will be short, “expert” reports throughout the semester.

February 7 and March 20. “Performing Specific Socio-Cultural Roles.”
You will research a role, such as coxcomb, cuckold, city servant, or old man, including research of at least one player who specialized in this part. Your emphasis can be on the role, a particular kind of performance (such as rakish woman or retired soldier), or on an actor. You may also find it useful to consider the impact of the role on the interpretation of the play. For example, does Aickin as Old Rowley make King as Sir Peter Teazle seem younger in School for Scandal?

On February 7, you will give us a preliminary report consisting of your research project, what you have done, and your plan of attack. You should include some hypotheses and emerging conclusions. Please hand in an informal survey of this report and a bibliography of the resources you are using. Your oral report should be 3-5 minutes; please time it carefully.

On March 20, you will give your major presentation. Your oral report will be 8-10 minutes, and there will be a few minutes for questions. You should also turn in 3-4 pages to accompany the report; it should make an argument and in some cases include a time line.

February 20. Attendance at Dr. Straub’s talk at 4:30 in the Hotel and Conference Center auditorium is required.

April 17. “Creating the Role of Writer.”
You will select a writer and do a comprehensive search of what they say about the identity and role of a writer and how they come to define themselves as a writer. What available performances do they seem to embrace or resist? Note that you need to work chronologically and be alert to shaping influences that may change if your writer had a long career.

Your oral report will be 8-10 minutes, and there will be a few minutes for questions. You should also turn in 3-4 pages to accompany the report. It should come to some conclusions.

May 1, 8-10:30. Research report.
This is a presentation of the work you did on your final paper. You should NOT read your paper. You will have 10-12 minutes to present and an approximately equal time for seminar discussion; specific guidelines will be given. In finalizing your paper, you may want to use comments and questions that arose from your presentation.

May 3, 2:00. Final paper.
Your paper may grow out of either report, or it may be on another topic pertinent to this seminar. You must use the theory taught in the course. The paper should be 18-23 pages long including notes and must use the Chicago Manual of Style for notes (no bibliography is required in this form of documentation).