English | Later Eighteenth-Century Literature
L327 | 27010 | Janet Sorenson

Janet Sorenson

9:30a-10:45a TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

Eighteenth-century Britain saw major transformations in literary
production. The market for printed texts exploded, changing forever
notions about authorship, public and private writing, and the social
place of poetry. As we explore how poetry and non-fiction prose of
the period negotiated print capitalism, we shall consider some of
the questions that these transformations pose: does
the “commercialization” of poetry degrade it? What new terms of
value might help redeem it? What roles might poetry play in the
emerging public sphere, cultural nationalism, and expansive
imperialism of the period? (It was in this period, after all, that
James Thomson wrote the still famous “Rule Britannia!”) How could
women, for whom publicity was scandalous—particularly the publicity
of a circulated text—participate in poetic production? How does
poetry represent the oral cultures that many saw print as
supplanting? (One runaway bestseller of the period supposedly
originated in the Scots-Gaelic speaking Highlands.)  Recent research
has challenged longstanding assumptions about the “rise” of print
and standard English and a consequent stabilization of social
identities and relationships, and we shall be especially interested
in attending to the women, colonial, provincial, and laboring class
poets and writers who clearly trouble that narrative.  Last, but
central to our discussions, will be an ongoing consideration of
poetic form, as we think about how writers deployed particular modes
of writing, often classical in origins, to help navigate this new
terrain of literary production and authorize their interventions
within it.

Course requirements include two papers, semester-long outside work
with a small group in preparation for presentations at several class
meetings, a mid-term exam, final exam, occasional quizzes, and
informed participation in all class discussion.