Events Calendar
Oct 3 - Nov 7
10:30 - 12:30
Dangerous Liaisons? C18th Literature of Sense, Sensibility and Decadence
Short courses

6 weeks:  3, 10, 17, 24, 31 October; 7 November

Thursday: 10.30-12.30

Course code: 19TON372

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The cult of sensibility may be seen as a transitional phase in literature of the mid to late eighteenth century between the Age of Enlightenment and the beginnings of Romanticism. With the increase in women's literacy, there developed a market for the literature of 'feeling' and the epistolary novel was the popular way to tell a story through the medium of letters. There was also the rise of the Gothic novel, made popular by Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto, full of terror, pathos and imaginative ghostly happenings. Many of the novels of the time explore the tension between reason and passion culminating in the era of Romanticism at the turn of the century. 

This short course looks at some of the key texts of the second half of the eighteenth century including a study of the scandalous French novel, Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos which exposes the corruption and boredom of the French aristocracy as it plays games of sex, love and deceit. We conclude the course with Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (written in the eighteenth century in epistolary form but published in the nineteenth) which points out the dangers of excessive emotion and critiques the clichés of the sentimental novel.

Required reading in weekly order      

Week 1: Introduction with extracts from Samuel Richardson's Pamela            

Week 2: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther

Week 3: Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto     

Week 4:  Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons            

Week 5:  Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons            

Week 6:  Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Additional information

No prior knowledge is required. The course is suitable for beginners.

This course allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment. There will be discussion activities during the course.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be able to have:

an understanding of the forces that shaped eighteenth century fiction. 

an appreciation of how the novel became an important vehicle for social commentary and reflected ideas on morality, gender and love in the eighteenth century. 

improved skills in critical analysis and the ability to convey ideas in general discussion. 

the ability to compare literary techniques and subject matter and justify comparisons and opinions with well-reasoned arguments.

About the tutor

Denyse Straker studied for her BA through the University of Kent's part-time programme at the Tonbridge Centre. She went on to do a research MA on depictions of child abuse in literature at the Kent's School of European Culture and Languages in Canterbury. She has many years' experience of teaching Comparative Literature and English Literature on Kent's undergraduate programmes, as well as a wide range of topics on the short course programme at Tonbridge. She is particularly interested in American Literature and Women's Studies as well as specialising in Travel Literature.


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Last Updated: 10/01/2012