Spring 2022 Undergraduate English Courses

358:328 Eighteenth Century Literature: Defoe and Wheatley

01  TF3  12:10-1:30 PM  CAC  08248  ZITIN  SC-101

Defoe and Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley and Daniel Defoe, two writers active in the 1700s, have almost nothing in common except for their outsized legacies. One was a white man, the other a Black woman; one is known primarily as a novelist, the other as a poet; he died (in London) twenty years before she was born (in West Africa). But taken together, their works offer something like a survey of eighteenth-century literature in the English-speaking world. In this course, we will read Robinson Crusoe, a novel you’re likely to have some impression of even if you’ve never read it; you may know it as a survival story, even as a children’s book, or you may know it through commentary by the likes of Karl Marx and Virginia Woolf. We will also read another of Defoe’s major works—perhaps his pandemic novel, A Journal of the Plague Year, or one of two pseudo-memoirs of outlaw women. If Defoe is known for writing the life stories of fictional people, Wheatley is just as well known for the life story she refused to mine for its literary value. We will consider her biography in the historical context of Atlantic-world slavery, American revolution, and the British abolitionist movement. And we will, of course, read her poetry and correspondence. Finally, we will examine some recent literary reckonings with those outsized legacies: J. M. Coetzee’s Foe and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis. Requirements include class participation and frequent short writing assignments.