Learning outcomes of the course unit
The course aims to provide students with sound knowledge regarding authors and texts of the 18th-century English-speaking context and literature. Students will also learn how to contextualise literary elements in wider and more complex socio-cultural events and to use interpretative methodologies to analyse specific texts. With this course, students will:
• know the main authors, works, movements and stylistic/aesthetic ideas of the literary and cultural context in XVIII century England and Britain, including the historical, political, cultural and artistic aspects;
• understand and analyse complex literary texts both in their form and thematic-ideological contents;
• study in-depth – in an autonomous and original way – the themes introduced in class, by using both traditional and digital bibliographical tools;
• make judgements based on a precise analysis of texts and connected to complex literary and cultural phenomena;
• produce, express and discuss contents, analysis and opinions by using a suitable linguistic register for the topic and the literary lexicon;
Course contents summary
Eighteenth-Century English Literature: Close readings of significant texts in a variety of genres: verse and prose satire, novel, drama, autobiography and journal, philosophic prose. Recurrent topics and themes will include satire and irony, sexuality, sensibility, aesthetics (especially the sublime), race and slavery, and Anglophone/Postcolonial issues. In addition, there will be some comparative study of eighteenth-century and twentieth-century texts. Authors from the period may include John Dryden, the 2d Earl of Rochester, William Wycherley, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, John Cleland, Samuel Johnson, Laurence Sterne, Edmund Burke, Phillis Wheatley, James Boswell, Olaudah Equiano, and Benjamin Franklin. Twentieth-century Anglophone texts by such writers as Jamaica Kincaid, Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coetzee, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka, and Vikram Seth. We will pay attention to literary and cultural contexts, but the chief focus of the course is on close reading: detailed analysis of the language of the texts we study. The course is designed to familiarize students with the main currents of eighteenth-century English thought, with the thematic and rhetorical features of the literature of the period, with the principal features of a range of genres, and with the striking generic innovation that marks many of these texts.
1. the Anglophone/imperial-colonial dimensions of several canonical writers: a. Swift and Ireland--“A Modest Proposal,” passages in Gulliver, especially Book III; b. Boswell and Scotland: The London Journal; c. Sterne and Ireland:A Sentimental Journey
2. 18th-c. writers who epitomize the linguistic, colonial, national, and racial issues that undergird the term and concept “Anglophone”: a. Phillis Wheatley; b. Equiano’s Interesting Narrative
3. unit on the conceptualization of race (and slavery) in the Enlightenment, including Ignatius Sancho’s correspondence with Laurence Sterne, Samuel Johnson’s Brief to Free a Slave, and texts by Aphra Behn, John Woolman, Diderot, Kant, and others.
4. selections from a few recent writers on Postcolonial linguistic, literary, and political issues, such as Kaul’s Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Postcolonial Studies, Alok Yadav’s Before the Empire of English: Literature, Provinciality, and Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain, and Homi Bhabha’s work on “Colonial Mimicry.”
5. recent Postcolonial writers, such as Jamaica Kincaid, Salman Rushdie, J. M. Coetzee, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka, and Vikram Seth.
6. Build into the course some juxtapositions of older and more recent texts that work well together thematically and otherwise:
a. Wheatley’s “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (and other poems) and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and “On Seeing England for the First Time”
b. Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
c. If there is time, it would be terrifically interesting to juxtapose Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe with Coetzee’s Foe.
William Wycherley, The Country Wife
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal
Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Selected verse satires (“An Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot,” Imitations of Horace, etc.)
John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure
Samuel Johnson, The History of Rasselas
Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative . . .
James Boswell, London Journal, 1762-1763
Phillis Wheatley, "On being brought from AFRICA to AMERICA," and other poems
SELECTED SECONDARY TEXTS:
M. H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition
Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse”
Fredric Bogel, The Difference Satire Makes: Rhetoric and Reading from Jonson to Byron
Leo Braudy, “Fanny Hill and Materialism”
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Trials of Phillis Wheatley
Martin Price, ed., The Oxford Anthology of English Literature : The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century
Suvir Kaul, Eighteenth-Century British Literature and Postcolonial Studies
Alok Yadav, Before the Empire of English: Literature, Provinciality, and Nationalism in Eighteenth-Century Britain
The course is held through in-class lectures in English. During the lessons, the professor will introduce the main elements of the socio-cultural contex, the authors’profiles and the texts, supported by the course bibliography and other materials (both textual and visual) available to students on the University online platform “Elly”. The professor will also give advice for personal research and study, in order to stimulate students’autonomy.
Assessment methods and criteria
Students will be assessed on their knowledge and skills through an oral examination in English. During the examination, the student will be requested to answer in English to questions regarding the teaching programme, the texts analysed, the books read and autonomous research work.