English 120

Literature of the Later 18th Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2011 Sorensen, Janet
TTh 12:30-2 note new room: 126 Barrows

Other Readings and Media

Titles are subject to change, but will likely include works by Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Horace Walpole, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Leapor, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray, William Collins, William Cowper, James Macpherson, Thomas Chatterton, Lawrence Sterne, Oliver Goldsmith, George Crabbe, Robert Burns, and Janet Little. The required books for the course will be available exclusively at Analog Books, located just one block up Euclid Avenue from the North Gate entrance to the Berkeley campus.


Unfamiliar to many undergraduates, eighteenth-century writing shaped many of the forms of writing and institutions of literature we now take for granted. Fiction writers worked to establish the form—and—legitimate as worthy reading—what we now call novels, while others experimented with the first gothic horror stories. Poets reckoned with a literary market and tidal wave of printed works that threatened to render all writing mere commodities. They thematized their position as misunderstood guardians of creative spirit, sometimes of a national past, negotiating a complex commercial world. Women writers cannily intervened in the republic of letters, even as their public writing was seen as semi-scandalous. All helped develop a new sense of Literature with a capital “L”—not just writing but imaginative writing that might play a special role in society, from protecting classical values in a modernizing world, to promoting a standard national language, to cultivating sentimental feelings for others in an increasingly anonymous society.

This course satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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