English 166

Special Topics: Aesthetics and the Environment in the Eighteenth Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2016 Picciotto, Joanna M
MWF 12-1 223 Dwinelle

Book List

Burke: A Philosophic Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful; Gilpin: On Picturesque Beauty; Goldsmith: Poems; Gray: Poems; Hogarth: Analysis of Beauty; Hutcheson: An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue (Part 1: concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, Design); Kame: Elements of Criticism; Shaftesbury: The Moralists, a Philosophical Rhapsody; Walpole: Essay on Modern Gardening

Other Readings and Media

Note:  Students will be given PDFs to access the texts.


Why do we take pleasure in contemplating the natural world? What sort of pleasure is this? The eighteenth century was preoccupied with this question, which abutted on others: What is beauty? Is it something we perceive directly, or do we experience it by more roundabout means? What concepts aside from beauty do we need to explain our pleasure? Is there a correlation between certain kinds of pleasure and certain environmental conditions? We will explore some influential attempts to grapple with these questions and use them as a guide to various forms of aesthetic practice in the period, focusing on poetry, with some excursions into the visual arts and landscape design.

Class requirements: Two short papers (5 pages) or one longer one (10 pages), a final exam, and mandated class participation, including informal presentations.

This section of English 166 satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

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