ENGL 3019 Poetry and Prose, 1740‑1789

This course offers a sampling of poetry and non-fictional prose from the mid to the late eighteenth century.  Perhaps more than most periods, the later eighteenth century was an age of transition for English literature, so much that there is now little agreement on what to call it.  At least three labels have been proposed:

The Age of Johnson:  this label identifies the period with its most dominant figure, Samuel Johnson, the great moral sage, essayist, lexicographer, poet, editor, critic, conversationalist, and the second most quoted person in the English language after Shakespeare.  We will study a number of Johnson’s writings.

The Age of Sensibility:  this label refers to an important cultural movement of the period, when a number of artists and thinkers began speaking up for the values of feeling, sentiment and sympathy in both literature and daily life.  We will examine the influence of this movement upon the poetry of the period, and how this poetry demonstrates certain “pre-romantic” features in its style and themes.

The Enlightenment: this label names a broad range of intellectual developments occurring throughout Europe and involving a rejection of age-old superstitions and habits of thought in favour of more modern and rational ways of understanding the human world.  We will consider one particular Enlightenment theme, abolitionism, in relation to one of the earliest and best English slave autobiographies.