Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

Course No: 350:547
Index: 18026
Distribution Requirement: A2, A3
Monday - 1:10 p.m.
MU 207

Periodization and Consequence, 1660-1714

Ann Baynes Coiro

Periodization and Consequences, 1660-1714 is a meditation on the logic and the effects of literary historical periodization, divisions that have wide-ranging repercussions across our discipline and yet are rarely questioned. Our discussion will be anchored in one of the most contested “periods” in Anglo-American literature: the consequential years from the restoration of the Stuart monarchy up through the reign of Anne, the last Stuart. This transitional moment was fraught from its self-announced beginning: the Restoration, a term that looks firmly backward even as it was meant to be a clarion call for modernity. Currently, this half-century is caught between (and largely obscured by) our now dominant periodization rubrics: early modern and the long eighteenth century. It thus provides rich ground for a thought experiment on how periodization shapes our work and our careers.

At the same time, therefore, this course will be an old-fashioned survey. We will discuss the period’s major writers and its significant cultural and generic transformations. Our key authors are John Milton and John Dryden (you will get a significant grounding in each), as well as Andrew Marvell, Margaret Cavendish (Duchess of Newcastle), John Bunyan, and Aphra Behn. But we will also read, among others, John Wilmot (Earl of Rochester), Mary Astell, Anne Finch (Countess of Winchilsea), and the early work of Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe and Alexander Pope.

The key cultural issues that will thread throughout our discussions are the contested role of women and the period’s developing justification for slavery.

Our key genres and modes will be epic (Milton’s Paradise Lost) and mock epic (Dryden’s Mac Flecknoe, Philips’ Splendid Shilling, and Pope’s Rape of the Lock); satire (Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel; Swift’s Tale of a Tub); dramatic adaptation (Dryden’s All for Love (adapting Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra) and The State of Innocence (adapting Paradise Lost); comedy (possibly texts are: Etheridge’s Man of Mode, Dryden’s Marriage a la Mode, Behn’s The Rover, Wycherley’s The Country Wife and Congreve’s The Way of the World); tragedy (Milton’s Samson Agonistes and Addison’s Cato); and lyric poetry (including Marvell, Rochester, Anne Finch and early Pope (Windsor Forest). We will also focus on the particular innovation of this transitional moment, the literary essay, brilliantly realized by Addison and Steele.

No previous knowledge of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century is required. Indeed, students specializing in other literary periods are invited to bring their own field perspectives to bear. But active class discussion is crucial. Although we will range over a wide variety of genres and authors, reading will be manageable. Class members will write three brief papers (of about 10 pp. each): one on a play, one on poetry and one on a prose work.

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