English 246F

Graduate Proseminar: 18th Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2011 Sorensen, Janet
Sorensen, Janet
F 12-3 305 Wheeler

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Many eighteenth-century British writers imagined their world as one of increasing complexity. Technologies of print, ever more specialized divisions of labor, an expanding empire, major shifts in credit and commerce—the growth of a speculative market as we know it—, the boom in the literary market, and revolutionary movements all contributed to a mixed sense of triumph and dissolution. As we read a selection of British writing from the latter half of the eighteenth century, we shall consider the rhetorics and genres, such as the periodical essay, the novel, and the georgic poem, even the dictionary and the anthology of “great Literature” that attempted to render visible some sense of social organization and cohesion. These examinations might allow us to think about any or all of such critical questions as: how did writers attempt to establish new terms of literary value?—be they poets suffering a crisis of faith in the social value of poetic practice, fiction writers eager to legitimate the form of writing we have come to call the novel, or women or laboring class writers negotiating the scandal of public authorship; what new epistemological challenges did writers face, and how did the discourses of empiricism and moral philosophy contribute to or attempt to resolve them?; how did notions of sentiment and sympathy propose to overcome the social atomization threatened by capital relations; how did historicism, especially a new interest in literary history, offer another means of social consolidation? This course will include both primary texts and important secondary scholarship to help introduce ongoing critical conversations in eighteenth-century studies. Titles are subject to change, but will likely include works by Samuel Johnson, David Hume, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Horace Walpole, Mary Leapor, Thomas Gray, William Collins, James Macpherson, Thomas Chatterton, Lawrence Sterne, Ann Radcliffe, Oliver Goldsmith, George Crabbe, Robert Burns, 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.
Course Requirements:
The emphasis of this course is on reading, and the primary requirement is close and careful reading of the texts. Also required are one class presentation and two 8-10-page papers.

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