English 45B

Literature In English: Late-17th Through the Mid-19th Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2007 Langan, Celeste
Langan, Celeste
Lectures MW 10-11, plus one hour of discussion section per week 126 Barrow

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On the face of it, English 45B seems like a ?neither/nor? course; neither a course in the great English authors (Chaucer, Spenser, Milton) nor a course in ?modern? 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.? At once functioning as the expression of ?private? feelings and as a ?national? discourse, Anglophone literature of the 18th and 19th centuries also partly invented what we mean by the ?individual,? the literate subject. We?ll watch 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 and Coleridge?s attempt to redefine poetry and Emerson?s and Thoreau?s attempt to write new kinds of prose, we?ll also ask a more general question: what constitutes the ?novelty? of literature, and?if novelty or ?originality? is a value, what is the point of reading literature of the past?

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