English 45B

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

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2014 Langan, Celeste
MW 3-4 + discussion secctions F 3-4 213 Wheeler


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 it's also the age of democratic revolutions, and students electing to take this course will discover that the writers in this (middle) 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.  We'll consider the "strange power of speech" that informs revolutionary "declarations," and how that power is theorized in the work of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley. 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 Romantic attempts 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?

Tentative reading list:  Defoe, D.: Robinson Crusoe; Richardson, S., Pope, A.: The Rape of the Lock; Swift, J.: Gulliver's Travels (Book IV); Sterne, L.: A Sentimental Journey; 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

Please note that this class will first meet on Wednesday, September 3; discussion sections will not start being held until Friday, September 5.

Discussion Sections

201 Albernaz, Joseph
F 3-4 24 Wheeler
202 Benjamin, Daniel
F 3-4 121 Wheeler

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