English 120

Literature of the Later 18th Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2015 Sorensen, Janet
TTh 2-3:30 166 Barrows

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The books for this course will be available at University Press Books, on Bancroft Way, a little west of Telegraph Avenue.


Late-eighteenth-century writing shaped many of the forms and institutions of literature we now take for granted. Fiction writers worked to establish the genre—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, in model of the tortured poet with which we are still familiar. 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 and literature, to cultivating sentimental feelings for others in an increasingly anonymous society.

Authors include: David Hume, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Frances Burney, Horace Walpole, Jane Austen, Samuel Johnson, Thomas Gray, William Collins, William Cowper, Charlotte Smith.

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

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