English 246F

Graduate Proseminar: The Later-Eighteenth Century

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2021 Goodman, Kevis
M 12-3 301 Wheeler

Book List

Burke, E.: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful; Burke, E.: Reflections on the Revolution in France; Burney, F.: Evelina; Equiano, O.: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; Johnson, S.: Selected Poetry and Prose; Johnson and Boswell: Journey to the Western Islands / Tour of the Hebrides; Smith, A.: Theory of Moral Sentiments; Sterne, L.: A Sentimental Journey; Walpole, H.: The Castle of Otranto; Williams, H. M.: Letters Written in France; Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads 1798,1800;

Recommended: Williams, R.: Keywords

Other Readings and Media


A course reader (electronic and hard copy available).




This survey of British writing from (roughly) 1740 through 1800 takes up decades that have presented literary historians with more than the usual challenges to periodization and organization by author, movement, or genre. We will study the proliferation of new genres in verse and prose, the transformation of existing ones, and the recovery of archaic forms. Proceeding with more of a chronological drift than in strict chronological order, we will try to do justice to the heterogeneity and eccentricity of the period, investigating its adjacent and overlapping concerns largely by topic and question. These will include: the emerging category of “literature” within “letters”; aesthetic criticism in relation to empiricism and the “Science of Man”; Scottish Enlightenment theories of sympathy and their attempts to overcome social atomization and geographical sprawl, skirmishes over the “common” tongue and the idea of “the people”; landscape description; the revival of romance before “Romanticism”; antiquarian impulses, forms, and forgeries; borders and peripheries within the nation; new international spaces and sentiment; abolition and revolution. Alongside the primary texts, we will address both recent and some not-so-recent critical discussions within later eighteenth-century and early Romantic studies.

In addition to the books listed above, there will be a course reader with our shorter readings, including the verse of Thomas Gray, William Collins, Oliver Goldsmith, George Crabbe, William Cowper, James Macpherson, and Anna Barbauld; non-fictional or philosophical prose by John Locke, David Hume, Hugh Blair, Lord Kames, Edward Young and Erasmus Darwin; and selected literary criticism.


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