Novelty, Enlightenment and Emancipation: 18th Century Literature - EN681

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Autumn
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5 30 (15) DR DW Kavanagh




Not available as wild



Before 1660 there was no English novel, and by the end of the eighteenth century there was Jane Austen. This module asks how such a literary revolution was possible. It investigates the rise of professional authorship in an increasingly open marketplace for books. With commercial expansion came experiment and novelty. Genres unheard of in the Renaissance emerged for the first time: they include the periodical essay, autobiography, the oriental tale, amatory fiction, slave narratives and, most remarkably, the modern novel. Ancient modes such as satire, pastoral and romance underwent surprising transformations. Many eighteenth-century men and women felt that they lived in an age of reason and emancipation – although others warned of enlightenment’s darker aspect. Seminar reading reflects the fact that an increasing number of women, members of the labouring classes, and African slaves wrote for publication; that readers themselves became more socially varied; and that Britain was growing to understand itself as an imperial nation within a shifting global context. It asks students to reflect, as eighteenth-century writers did, upon the literary, cultural and political implications of these developments


This module appears in:

Contact hours

There will be ten two-hour seminars and ten one-hour lectures.

Method of assessment

50% coursework: seminar performance (20%), 2 x 2,500 word essays (40% each);
50% examination - 3-hr paper

Preliminary reading

Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1714)
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Letters from the Ottoman Embassy (1717-18)
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740)
The Gothic Novel: Horace Walpole, Castle of Otranto (1764), Clara Reeve, Old English Baron (1778)
Frances Burney, Evelina (1778)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

• Read, respond to and understand a range of literature from the eighteenth century.
• Develop an understanding of the emergence of new genres and the development of old ones during the period 1680-1790.
• Read the set texts within their relevant literary, cultural and theoretical contexts.
• Examine how modern ideas of authorship and modern terms of literary criticism were forged and contested in the period.
• Apply and interrogate some of the critical paradigms within which the literature of the period is understood, such as the discourses of public and private spheres and the separation of popular and polite culture.

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• Be able to respond to and initiate group discussion of issues raised, basing responses on precise reference to text and context
• Analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of reading
• Develop a capacity for original thought, and the confidence to criticize received positions
• Be able to lead parts of seminar discussion, demonstrating presentational skills and eliciting engaged responses from the group
• Show a good command of written English and articulate coherent, well documented arguments about the text and contexts

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