English 250

Research Seminar: Ways of Knowing, Ways of Representing in Eighteenth-Century English Fiction

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2018 Sorensen, Janet
Tues. 3:30-6:30 78 Barrows British 18th-Century
Graduate Courses


In this course we will read the early English fiction once associated with “the rise of the novel” with a view to the strategies this writing deployed to address new epistemological challenges. An expanding empire, an urbanizing nation (recently transformed by the Union of Scotland and England), the abstractions of a credit economy and financial markets, new optical technologies, and an exploding print market—all posed and demanded new ways of knowing. How did the generic experiments of early fiction and its rhetorical figures (including ramblers, letter writers, talking things, omniscient narrators) explore and represent these new ways of knowing? How did they render visible some sense of social organization and cohesion? How did early fiction deploy and develop empiricism and moral philosophy as ways of knowing? How did radical empiricism and gothic writing extend and revise the understanding of those ways of knowing? We shall be especially interested in questioning why it was that in a society imagined to be increasingly more complex, its members (and economic relations) spread more remotely, representation, nonetheless, often focused on local and everyday, usually domestic, objects and practices, on familiar elements that had heretofore gone unregarded. How did the objects and strategies involved in representing the particular (a specific character, a quality of light) invoke something more general, and the local, something more distant? What bearing might Britain’s status as a maritime empire have had on its technologies and dynamics of fictional representation? While our focus will be on emerging forms of prose fiction, we will supplement this reading with some poetry and new popular genres such as the periodical essay, voyage writing, and the vernacular dictionary, and even some painting (Golden Age still life painting of the Netherlands, works of William Hogarth). NB: those new to eighteenth-century writing are welcome.

We will likely read works by John Locke, Aphra Behn, Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, David Hume, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, Jane Austen.

This course satisfies the Group 3 (Seventeenth through Eighteenth Century) requirement.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Spring, 2019
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Philosophical Idealizations of Art and Modernist Practices Altieri, Charles F.
Fall, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/3 Research Seminar: Textual Communities and the Modern Picciotto, Joanna M
250/4 Research Seminar: Evolution and Literary Form, 1800-1900 Duncan, Ian
Spring, 2018
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/3 Research Seminar: Milton and the English Civil War Kahn, Victoria
250/4 Research Seminar: The Rhetoric of Technique Lavery, Grace
250/5 Research Seminar: Black Abstraction Best, Stephen M.
Fall, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Victorian Cultural Studies Puckett, Kent
250/2 Research Seminar: How to Write a Book Kahn, Victoria
250/3 Research Seminar: Paranoid States: Empire and the Rise of the Surveillance State Saha, Poulomi
250/4 Research Seminar: Gender, Sexuality, Modernism Abel, Elizabeth
Spring, 2017
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Wordsworth and Coleridge in Collaboration Goodman, Kevis
250/2 Research Seminar: Modernism in Poetry and in Art Altieri, Charles F.
250/3 Research Seminar: Idols and Ideology—Readings in Augustine, Milton, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Hobbes, Kant, Marx, Freud, Althusser Kahn, Victoria
Fall, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Representing Non-Human Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Britain Picciotto, Joanna M
250/2 Research Seminar: Ethnic Modernisms Lee, Steven S.
250/3 Research Seminar: Literature and the Brain Gang, Joshua
Spring, 2016
Course & Section Course Name Course Areas
250/1 Research Seminar: Capitalist Crisis and Literature Gonzalez, Marcial
250/2 Research Seminar: The Limits of Historicism Best, Stephen M.
250/3 Research Seminar: How It Strikes a Contemporary: Reading the Novel in the 21st Century Snyder, Katherine
Snyder, Katie
250/4 Research Seminar: Modernism's Metaphysics Blanton, C. D.

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