9:30a-10:45a TR (30) 3 cr.
What are we doing when we learn to read and write? This is one major question we need to address in order to understand late-eighteenth-century England, a culture in which the literacy rate escalated, in which new sectors of the population (women and servants, for instance) began to think of themselves not only as readers but as authors, and which, thanks to technology that made print cheap, witnessed an information explosion not so different from the one that internet technologies have produced in our twenty-first century. One historian of this era has noted that reading "can be a coerced deference to dominant ideological interests in which 'I can read' means 'I know how to behave.'" But, he continues, this can't be the whole story: parents' perennial anxiety about the child whose head is always stuck in a book suggests otherwise.
Our survey of writing from 1740 to 1800 will takes its cue from this culture's, and our culture's, debates on the effects of literacy. We'll consider the novel--that new genre which conservative commentators faulted precisely for catering to the period's new readers. We'll think about this period as one that pioneered the project of writing for children: children's literature, as a distinctive type of writing, begins then. We'll alsoengage the beginnings of a strange, distinctively modern phenomenon: nostalgia, driven by the premise that literacy separates people from one another as much as it connects them, for the preliterate community and for a time before the book.
Texts are likely to include the following: three novels--probably Samuel Richardson's Pamela, Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote, and Maria Edgeworth's Belinda; Olaudah Equiano's autobiography; Frances Burney's play The Witlings; essays and travel writing by Samuel Johnson; poetry by Mary Leapor, Elizabeth Hands, Anna Barbauld and others.
Requirements: participation in class discussion; a number of short, informal and/or creative assignments; two long essays and a final exam.