Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN2E4/EN3E4 Eighteenth-Century Literature

TUES 9:30 - 11 Seminar Room FAB 2.31

This module is running in 2023/24.

Convenor and tutor: Professor John Gilmore 

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1400-1500; Wednesdays, 1200-1300.

Teaching method:


This course, open to second and third year students, aims to give a broad introduction to the literature and culture of eighteenth-century Britain. We will read a roughly equal selection of plays, novels, diaries, poems, and letters organized into themes that capture aspects of eighteenth-century life: the rise of the novel, space and landscape, satire, and objects and materials.

Performance and Satire (weeks 2-5): The eighteenth century marked a great expansion in the reach and circulation of cultures both public and private: both in terms of how widely materials could circulate, and who could contribute to their circulation. In this section, we read documents from a variety of different circulating contexts: stage, print, and imagistic satire, all of which circulated in a variety of forms.

Space and landscape (weeks 7-10): This period is marked by fundamental transformations in people’s experience and conceptions of space, borders, and mobility: the United Kingdom is established; London emerges as a discernibly “modern” city at the centre of a rapidly expanding empire; and the values and communities of rural Britain are increasingly threatened by urbanization and industrialization. We will look at works that are urgently engaged in responding to these changes and the new forms of cultural and political identity fashioned to accommodate them.

The Rise of the Novel (weeks 12-15): This is a period when the novel as we know it first appears and when the audience for literature and the availability of print expands enormously. One set of questions guiding the course will therefore address literature’s relation to “real” life, a category we will investigate itself as we read reports on everyday practices. How does the novel reflect or distort experience? How does reading change the way people live? How is the fate of realism connected to the possibility of making the lives and habits of normal individuals appealing?

Philosophies and Lived Life (weeks 17-20): Whatever side we stand in terms of adding "so-called" to its name, the Enlightenment--in which England was a qualified participant--sought to define new categories of human thought and morality. (Often, equally, by inventing new exclusions from who got counted as human.) In this section, we read two of the major English enlightenment philosophers, Hume and Smith, tracing how their moral thinking is reflected and refracted in the poems and letters of Phillis Wheatley and in a turn-of-the-century novel by Jane Austen.


Term One

Week 1: Introduction


Week 2: Gay, The Beggar's Opera

Week 3: Jonathan Swift, 'The Lady’s Dressing Room'; Montagu, 'The Reasons that Induced Dr. S— to write a Poem called the Lady’s Dressing Room'; Swift, 'Stella's Birthday, 1727,' and Leapor, 'Dorinda at her Glass'

Week 4: Swift, Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal

Week 5: Visual satire: Hogarth, A Harlot's Progress and Four Times of the Day; James Grantham Turner, '" A Wanton Kind of Chase': Display as Procurement in A Harlot's Progress and its Reception'

Week 6: Reading Week


Week 7: Centlivre, A Bold Stroke for a Wife; Addison and Steele, selections from The Spectator

Week 8: Thomson, The Seasons ('Spring'); Duck, 'The Thresher’s Labour'; Collier, 'The Woman’s Labour'

Week 9: Sancho, selected letters (I, VII, XIII, XXXV, XLIX), Johnson, selected essays ('Spring', 'Biography', 'Idleness), Boswell, from London Journal

Week 10: Gray, 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard'; Goldsmith, 'The Deserted Village'; Crabbe, 'The Village'

Term 2


Week 1: Richardson, Pamela (first half)

Week 2: Richardson, Pamela (second half)

Week 3: Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure

Week 4: Sterne, Tristram Shandy, Vol 1-4

Week 5: Inchbald, A Simple Story


Week 7: David Hume, 'Of Love and Hatred', from A Treatise of Human Nature

Week 8: Adam Smith, from The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Week 9: Phillis Wheatley, selected poems

Week 10: Austen, Emma


Several of the readings are posted online here. You will also need copies of the following:

  • Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, ed. Melvyn New (Penguin Classics, 2003)*
  • Elizabeth Inchbald, A Simple Story (Oxford 2008)
  • John Cleland, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (Oxford, 2008)
  • Samuel Richardson, Pamela, ed. Thomas Keymer (Oxford, 2008)
  • Austen, Emma, ed. John Mullan (Oxford, 2022)
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Claude Rawson (Oxford, 2008)

*Some Penguin editions are also available through Literature Online.

Digital Resources: A key resource is Eighteenth-Century Collections Online which contains online early editions of all the set texts and excellent search facilities. It can be an invaluable resource for primary research but should NOT be used instead of properly edited, modern editions of the set texts.


Intermediate-year students:

2 x 3000-word essays

PLEASE NOTE: Details of submission due dates for the first essay are as follows:


For visiting students, the deadline is 12 noon Tue 19ᵗʰ December 2023.


For intermediate year and final year Warwick students, it is 12 noon Fri 5ᵗʰ January 2024.



Term 2: Week 11

Final-year students:

2 x 4000-word essays

PLEASE NOTE: Details of submission due dates for the first essay are as follows:


For visiting students, the deadline is 12 noon Tue 19ᵗʰ December 2023.


For intermediate year and final year Warwick students, it is 12 noon Fri 5ᵗʰ January 2024.



Term 2: Week 11

Questions for first essay -- please see here: First essay titlesLink opens in a new window