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ENGLISH 7870: Writers: Their World and Their Performances of "Writer"
Spring 2009

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


This seminar will look at two bodies of literature that depict writers and writing between 1680 and 1780. Many of the texts will be by writers describing themselves, performative versions of themselves, or writers in situations similar to their own. One group of readings will be poems by women and include topics such as “Determination to Write,” “The Experience of Writing,” “Reception,” and “Responses to Critics.” Among these authors are Anne Finch, Elizabeth Thomas, and Mary Jones. The second group is composed of plays about playwriting. Some of these plays dramatize the suffering of the playwright who sees his play mutilated and rewritten while others caricature or satirize playwrights. Texts include Delariviere Manley’s The Lost Lover, Henry Fielding’s Author’s Farce, John Gay’s Three Hours after Marriage, Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Critic, and Frederick Reynolds, The Dramatist. This is a basic performance history and theory course, and there will also be a few feminist, popular culture, and cultural studies readings. The emphasis, however, is on exploration of little-known and neglected poetry and plays.


Engaged discussion; short, varied assignments; a report on a writer, and a standard seminar paper.

Required Texts:

  • The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems by Alexander Pope, ed. by Martin Price (Penguin Group, 2003).
    ISBN: 0-451-52877-8
  • The School for Scandal and Other Plays by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, ed. by Michael Cordner (Oxford, 1998).
    ISBN: 0-19-282567-4
  • The Excursion by Frances Brook, ed. by Paula Backscheider and Hope Cotton (UP of Kentucky, 1997).
    ISBN: 0-8131-0881-0
  • The Performance Studies Reader, ed. by Henry Bial (Routledge, 2007).
    ISBN: 978-0-415-77275-4
  • Course pack


Dr. Backscheider
Haley 9082
Office Hours: M 3-5

"Performance is an inherent constituent of all communication."
Ray Birdwhistell                      

"As a term simultaneously denoting a process, a praxis, a mode of transmission, an accomplishment, and a means of intervening in the world, [performance] far exceeds the possibility of these other words offered in its place."     
Diana Taylor


Jan. 7:  
The Performance Studies Reader: Henry Bial, "What is Performance Studies?" 5-6; Jack Santino, "Performative Commemoratives, The Personal, and the Public:  Spontaneous Shrines, Emergent Ritual," 125-33.

Coursepack: “The Experience of Writing.”
Blackboard: Jane Spencer, “Imagining the Woman Poet: Creative Female Bodies” in Women and Poetry, 1660-1750, 99-120; "Introduction" to Backscheider, Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry, 1-27, and Rita Dove, "On Voice" in Dwelling in Possibility, 111-15.

The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems: “The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace: To Mr. Fortescue,” 164-69;  “To a Lady: Of the Characteristics of Women,” 138-47, and review “Epistle to Arbuthnot,” 149-63.
Coursepack: Alexander Pope, “The First Epistle of the Second Book of Horace Imitated: To Augustus.”
Blackboard: Harold Weber, "Oh Grant an Honest Fame, or Grant Me None!" from Memory, Print, and Gender in England, 1653-1759, 103-36, and George Justice, Chapter 3, from The Manufacturers of Literature, 112-43.

Coursepack: “Determination to Write.”
Blackboard: Carol J. Singley, "Female Language, Body, and Self," and Marilyn Hacker, "A Few Cranky Paragraphs on Form and Content" in Dwelling in Possibility, 193-201, and Backscheider, "Poetry on Poetry" in Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and their Poetry, 58-72.

Feb.  4:
Coursepack: “The Muses.”
Blackboard: Margaret Ezell, "From Manuscript to Print:  a Volume of Their Own" in Women and Poetry, 1660-1750, 140-60, and Carol Watts, “Releasing Possibility into Form: Cultural Choice and the Woman Writer” in New Feminist Discourses, ed. Isobel Armstrong, 83-102. 
Paper due (4-6 pages).

Coursepack: “The Experience of Reception: “Plagiarism” and “The Critics.”
Blackboard: Roger Lonsdale, "Introduction" to Eighteenth-Century Women Poets, xxii-xlvii; Wai Chee Dimock, “Introduction: Genres as Fields of Knowledge” and Stephen Owen, “Genres in Motion,” PMLA 122 (2007), 1377-1393. 

The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems: “Epilogue to the Satires, Dialogues I and II,” 190-207.
Coursepack: Mary Jones, “An Epistle to Lady Bowyer,” “Experience of Reception: Resistance.”

Coursepack: “Experience of Reception: Resistance.”
Blackboard: Richard Terry, Chapter 8, "Making the Female Canon" in Poetry and the Making of the English Literary Past, 252-85, and Elizabeth Eger, "Fashioning a Female Canon" in Women’s Poetry in the Enlightenment, 101-215.

March 4:
The Rape of the Lock and Other Poems: “The Dunciad,” 208-77.

Reports and paper on playwrights (3-6 pages). 
Blackboard: Bruce A. McConachie, "Historicizing the Relations of Theatrical Production" in Critical Theory and Performance, 168-78; Felicity Nussbaum, “`Real, Beautiful Women’ Actresses and The Rival QueensEighteenth-Century Life 32 (2008): 138-58.
The Performance Studies Reader: Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, "Performance Studies," 43-55; Marvin Carlson, "What is Performance?" 70-75.


March 25:
Coursepack: Richard Cumberland, An Impromptu, after the Play of Hamlet; Henry Fielding, The Author’s Farce; Frederick Reynolds, The Dramatist.
The Performance Studies Reader: Henry Bial, "Ritual," 87-88, and Bertolt Brecht, "A Dialogue about Acting," 219-221.

April 1:
Coursepack: Henry Fielding, Pasquin and Eurydice Hissed.
The School for Scandal and Other Plays: The Critic.

Coursepack: John Gay, Three Hours after Marriage; George Colman, The Female Dramatist.
The Performance Studies Reader: Irving Goffman, "Performances: Belief in the part one is playing," 61-65; Judith Butler, "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution," 187-99; Homi Bhabha, "Of Mimicry and Man," 337-44.

Coursepack: George Villiers, The Rehearsal, and anonymous, The Female Wits
Group reports on formulaic elements in plays.

Visit by Professor Felicity Nussbaum, UCLA.
Blackboard: Felicity Nussbaum, “Actresses and the Economics of Celebrity, 1700-1800” in Theatre and Celebrity in Britain, 1660-2000, ed. Mary Luckhurst and Jane Moody (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 148-68; Joseph Roach, “Vicarious: Theater and the Rise of Synthetic Experience” in Theorizing Practice, ed. W. B. Worthen and Peter Holland (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), 121-35; Catherine Clive, The Case of Mrs. Clive, ed. Richard Frushell, Augustan Reprint Society No. 159, UCLA 1973; Catherine Clive, The Rehearsal: Or, Bays in Petticoats (Dublin 1753).

Frances Brooke, The Excursion.
The Performance Studies Reader: Diana Taylor, "Translating Performance," 381-86.

May 6, 12-2:30:  Research Reports.