Course Materials and Timelines

Writers and Culture

Course Description

Students who elect this course in the "long eighteenth century” will study English poetry, drama, and intellectual history from the Restoration to about 1740, with some glances back at the Revolutionary period and ahead to Dr. Johnson. We will concentrate on some canonical writers (Dryden, Swift, Pope), the cavalier lyrical tradition and its excesses (Marvell, Cowley, Waller, Rochester), emerging women writers (Philips, Finch, Behn), drama (Wycherley, Congreve) as well as the notion of “enlightenment” (Locke, Hobbes, Astell). Analytical, argumentative, and research writing in the discipline will also be a frequent topic.

This is a great age for philosophy, history, theater, the rise of women writers, the development of the novel, painting (Peter Lely), sculpture, architecture (Christopher Wren), and, of course, music. Two great English composers of the late seventeenth century are John Blow and Henry Purcell. Use these links to give them a listen if you can, and enjoy. You probably already know about Haydn and Mozart, but their name links will lead you to music samples, as well.

For general resources, such as writing handouts, matters poetical, or useful external websites, please visit the navigation page.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

I hope that during the progress of our course you will get to know this fascinating person,talented memorist, travel writer, and thinker, and supremely underrated poet (1689-1762). She quarrelled with Pope and Swift, and was instrumental in the development of the smallpox vaccine, though she also suffered from the disease itself, and was horribly disfigured by it. Here is an excellent critical biography by Isobel Grundy (1999), my favorite poem of hers, “The Lover,” and the University of Virginia e-text page devoted to her work. Here is a .pdf of her 1781 collected poems.

Sylvia’s Complaint of Her Sexes Unhappiness (1692)

This brief collection contains the celebrated anonymous poem “The Emulation: A Pindarique Ode,” which may be by a woman, although the publishing market for poems by women with a proto-feminist bent raises the intriguing possibility that a man could have composed it. In any case, it is a very fine piece of work. Read the whole thing—you will definitely enjoy it