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EN330 Eighteenth-Century Literature

This module is a Pathway Approved Option on the English Pathway and a Distributional Requirement on all other Pathways.


Taught by Michael Meeuwis (Term 1) and Christina Lupton (Term 2)

Seminar: Thursday 1:30 - 3:00pm


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.

Satire (weeks 2-5): The eighteenth-century – the first half especially – is the greatest period of satire in English literary history. We will pay close attention to forms and techniques of satire and to the kinds of work, social, ethical and ideological, that it performs. What are its imperatives? Does it use ridicule to reform or to injure, and to what extent are these aims mutually constitutive? And is satire borne of a position of confidence, precarity, or anxiety?

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 discernably “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?

Objects and materials (weeks 17-20): Another focus of the course will be the way that commodity culture and the movement of things and people defines eighteenth-century culture. How are new kinds of materiality part of the Enlightenment? How do things—and books—begin to circulate in new ways?


Term One

Week 1: Introduction

SATIRE (Michael)

Week 2: Gay, The Beggar's Opera

Week 3: Pope, "The Rape of the Lock" and “Epistle to a Lady”; Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room”; Montagu, “The Reasons that Induced Dr. S— to write a Poem called the Lady’s Dressing Room”

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 (plus article on Hogarth's Progress)

Week 6: Reading Week


Week 7: Centlivre, 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: Boswell, London Journal

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

Term 2


Week 1: Wiki workshop

Week 2: Richardson, Pamela

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: Adventures of a Robinson Crusoe; Dixon, “From a Gilt Paper to Cloe” (will hand out in class); Adventures of a Silk Petticoat and Adventures of a Black Coat.

Week 8: Lowlife

Week 9: Diary of Thomas Turner

Week 10: Austen, Emma


Most of the readings are posted online here:

You'll find most of the readings here (poems, plays, extracts). However, you'll need to purchase a copy 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. Adela Pinch (Oxford, 2008)
  • Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, ed. Claude Rawson (Oxford, 2008)
  • James Boswell, London Journal

*These 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.

  • 100% assessed: 2,500 word essay (30%), wiki (30%), 3,500-word essay (40%)
  • 50/50: 2,500 word essay (30%), wiki (30%), 2 hour exam (40%)

For more information on wiki project and modes of assessment see here.

Michael Meeuwis - first semester 2018 PowerPoints