English 165

Special Topics: Enlightenment & Romance: Scotland in the 18th Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2020 Duncan, Ian
MWF 10-11 note new location: 2062 Valley Life Sciences Building

Book List

Burns, Robert: Selected Poems; Hogg, James: Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; Hume, David: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; Johnson, Samuel: Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland; Scott, Walter: Redgauntlet: A Tale of the Eighteenth Century; Smollett, Tobias: The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

Other Readings and Media

Selections from Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Hugh Blair, Robert Fergusson, James Macpherson, Dorothy Wordsworth (etc.) to be made available in a course reader.


Eighteenth-century Scotland was home both to the so-called Scottish Enlightenment, one of the advanced civil societies in the Atlantic world, and to the beginnings of the global movement of taste and feeling later to be called Romanticism. Here were invented signature discourses of the modern human sciences (sociological history, anthropology, political economy) as well as literary forms of ancient indigenous epic, the poetry of popular life, and the historical novel. If Scotland, on the one hand, “invented the modern world,” it also became, on the other, a haunted landscape in the symbolic geography of Romanticism—a site of lost worlds of tradition and allegiance: an imaginary role it still holds today (although debates around the 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence opted for an enlightened, civic conception of the modern nation rather than appealing to Romantic nostalgia). Our course will consider the production of Scotland and its world horizons by Scottish writers and institutions as well as its consumption in tourist itineraries and media fantasies, and its problematical legacies in neoliberal economics and nationalist ideology. We will read selections from some key works of Enlightenment moral philosophy and history alongside Scottish innovations in poetry and fiction (Macpherson's "Poems of Ossian"; Burns and the vernacular poetry revival; Romantic historical fiction).

Readings will include: David Hume, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding; Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments; Adam Ferguson, Essay on the History of Civil Society; James Macpherson, Fragments of Ancient Poetry and Fingal; Robert Fergusson and Robert Burns, selected poems; Tobias Smollett, The Expedition of Humphry Clinker; Samuel Johnson, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and James Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides; Dorothy Wordsworth, Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland; Walter Scott, Redgauntlet; James Hogg, Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. [NB: Coursebooks will be ordered from University Press Books, on Bancroft Ave.)

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

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