Restoration and 18th Century English Literature | Department of English | SIU

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Restoration and 18th Century English Literature

The program in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature covers cultural developments in the British Isles dating from the accession of Charles II (1660) through the early years of the Romantic Era (1785-1815). Focal topics include colonialism, constructions of race and gender, educational theory, the sentimental movement, and the production and reception of popular fiction.

Courses

Four 400-level courses, open to undergraduate English majors and to graduate students, are offered in eighteenth-century studies.

English 413 and 414 are two parts of a historical survey, taking in many authors and a variety of literary genres.  English 413 goes from the Restoration era (roughly, 1660-1700) to the middle of the eighteenth century. This course examines the cultural contradiction whereby a neoclassical aesthetic achieved dominance at the very moment that literary production fell under the sway of capitalist economics.

From this conflict arose the greatest age of English satire, and the first emergence of sentimental, middle-class gentility as a cultural aspiration in the work of writers including John Dryden, Aphra Behn, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, Daniel Defoe, Eliza Haywood, Jonathan Swift, John Gay, Alexander Pope, James Thomson, and Thomas Gray. English 414 begins with the poet and essayist Samuel Johnson and his biographer, James Boswell, and proceeds to trace public opinion on “Feeling,” “nature,” feminism, slavery, and revolution through the works of such writers as Christopher Smart, Horace Walpole, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, William Cowper, Charlotte Smith, Olaudah Equiano, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and William Blake.

English 451 and 462 are surveys of specific literary genres for the period. English 451, Eighteenth-Century English Fiction, explores the early development of what we now call “novels” through considerations of the sociocultural factors that made the genre marketable, as well as through close study of seven or eight writers from the following list: Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Eliza Haywood, Henry Fielding, Tobias Smollett, Laurence Sterne, Horace Walpole, Henry Mackenzie, Frances Burney, Charlotte Smith, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Lewis, Jane Austen, and William Godwin. 

English 462, English Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Drama, examines the resurgence of theater, especially of stage comedy, in the reign of Charles II (following its suppression during the Puritan Commonwealth), and its evolution from the primary vehicle of “libertine” philosophy and sexuality to a politically defanged, state- regulated bastion of conservative morality from 1660s through the 1790s. The works of such playwrights as John Dryden, William Wycherley, George Etheredge, Aphra Behn, Thomas Otway, William Congreve, George Farquhar, Susannah Centlivre, John Gay, Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Elizabeth Inchbald, and Hannah Cowley demonstrate the centrality of the stage to English politics and culture throughout the period.

Special Topics Courses

Professor George Boulukos’s English 593 course, “Slave Narrative and Novel,” was first offered in Fall 2003. This special-topics graduate seminar deals with race, slavery, and the inter-relationship of British, African, Caribbean, and African literatures and cultures from Mary Rowlandson's 1682 captivity narrative to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852).

Professor Boulukos has also offered a 593 Pro-Seminar in Research (the introduction to Ph.D. level research) on the related topic of Olaudah Equiano's Interesting Narrative and Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Seminars

Under the general designation Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature, English 516, Professors Anne Chandler and George Boulukos have offered several graduate seminars in recent years.

In 1998 and 2005, Professor Chandler taught seminars on early developments in the Gothic novel, beginning with Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto  (1764) and ending with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818). Other authors included William Beckford, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Matthew G. Lewis. As presently configured, the seminar puts recent criticism in dialogue with background texts of the period and with lesser-known texts by each novelist, with the goal of reading Gothicism itself somewhat against the grain – for example, by way of a landscape aesthetic that inscribes and tests beliefs about gender, subjectivity, and power.

In 2000, Professor Chandler taught “Science and Sensibility,” an exploration of cultural crosscurrents between the sentimental movement in literature and trends in philosophy and the natural sciences.  Key authors included John Locke, Laurence Sterne, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry Mackenzie, Gilbert White, Maria Edgeworth, and William Godwin.

In 2003 and 2005 Professor Boulukos taught a seminar on Jane Austen in Eighteenth-Century Context, situating her career in relationship to the writers who most influenced her, including Fanny Burney and Ann Radcliffe, and reading all of her works, and a good deal of criticism, to understand Austen's place in literary history as at once the last eighteenth-century novelist and the mother of the modern tradition of the novel.

In 2001, Professor Boulukos taught “The Emergence of Race in British Discourse,” tracing racial consciousness in British writings from such pre-racial texts as Aphra Behn's Oroonoko (1689) and Penelope Aubin's Carlotta du Pont (1723) through abolitionist polemics against white racial privilege in the colonies, including Equiano's autobiography, and on to fully racialized fictions such as Charlotte Smith's Letter of Henrietta (1800). This seminar also paid close attention to theories and histories of race and its relationship to the institution of slavery.

In 2006, Professor Chandler is scheduled to teach a seminar on the fiction and political writings of Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Mary Shelley. In the near future, Professor Boulukos plans to develop a seminar on the emergence of modern conceptions of love in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century British literature drawing on recent histories of love and marriage.

Recent Ph.D. Dissertations

  • Paul Odney, Re-Modeling the Past: Eighteenth-Century British “Progress Poets” from Collins to Cowper (2000)
  • Gregory Winch, Domesticating Tradition: The Celtic Fringe and the Formation of British National Consciousness (1999)

Recent M.A. Theses

  • Alina Ilie, Dance as Metaphor for Sexuality and Marriage in Three of Jane Austen’s Novels (2004)