English 45B

Literature in English: Late 17th- Through Mid-19th Centuries

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2011 Langan, Celeste
Langan, Celeste
MW 12-1 + discussion sections F 12-1 2 LeConte

Other Readings and Media

Defoe, D.: Robinson Crusoe; Richardson, S.: Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded; The Norton Anthology of American Literature, volumes A and B; The Norton Anthology of English Literature, volume C; Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads; Shelley, M.: Frankenstein; Dickens, C.: Bleak House


On the face of it, English 45B seems like a “neither/nor” course; neither a course in the great English "originals" (Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton) nor a course in “modern(ist)” literature. It represents neither the supposed “origin” nor the putative “end” of literature in English; it’s only the middle, and a peculiarly defined middle at that: from the “Glorious Revolution” that legitimated an extra-national monarch for Great Britain to the end of a Civil War in that former British colony, “America.” But students electing to take this course will discover that the writers in this period defined or redefined—in their practices as well as in their prefaces—virtually every idea that governs our attitudes toward “literature” and literacy. We’ll examine how Alexander Pope makes English into an artificial language that “belongs” to no particular class; we’ll see how letters are the means by which former “nobodies”—women and slaves—exercise a measure of freedom and autonomy. But we’ll also see the supposedly liberatory, democratizing power of letters and of literature challenged—by Dickens, in Bleak House, and Melville, in “Bartleby the Scrivener.” As we consider Wordsworth's and Coleridge’s attempt to redefine poetry and Emerson’s and Thoreau’s attempt to write new kinds of prose, we’ll also ask more general questions: what constitutes the “novelty” of literature; if novelty or “originality” is a value, what is the point of reading literature of the past?

Please note that this class will first meet on Monday, August 29; discussion sections will not start being held until Friday, September 2.

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