ENGLISH 540 - Topics in Language and Literature
Fall 2021, Section 003 - Empire and its Discontents: The Literature of the British Eighteenth Century
Instruction Mode: Section 003 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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1 - 3
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Graduate standing and permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


We will study the impact of colonial developments on eighteenth-century genres (travelogues, poetry, the novel, the essay, the play) and discourses (political economy, science, religion, abolitionism, satire). We will study literary responses to slavery, including Olaudah Equiano’s autobiographical slave-narrative. We will study the literary impact of internal relations among the four kingdoms, with attention to Catholic Ireland. And we will examine the shift from Britain’s First Empire (Ireland, North America, Jamaica) to the second, centered on India. We will give attention to such institutions as the Royal Society, the Royal African Company, the East India Company, and the Society for Abolishing the Slave Trade. We will attend both to the development of colonial ideology and critiques of that ideology. Our reading process will seek to open a dialogue between past and present. We will attempt to rethink the genealogy of postcolonial critique from the perspective of a more refined understanding of the British Enlightenment.

Course Requirements:

Expectations: Written work will include a research essay, due at the end, and two very short book reports. Lively participation in seminars is of course expected. Please order the specific editions listed on this syllabus as much as possible.

Required Texts

    Aphra Behn, Oroonoko and Other Writings (Oxford) English Trader, Indian Maid: Representing Gender, Race, and Slavery in the New World, ed. Frank Felsenstein Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings, Carretta (Penguin) Edmund Burke, On Empire, Liberty, and Reform (Yale) Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Penguin) Daniel Defoe, A General History of Pyrates (Dover) Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees, ed. E.J. Hundert (Hackett) Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal and Other Writings (Penguin) Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (Oxford) John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera and Polly


ENGLISH 540 - Topics in Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
Tu 10:00AM - 1:00PM
002 (SEM)
Tu 12:00PM - 1:00PM
003 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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