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H1  7/10-8/16  MTWTH 10:15AM-12:00 PM  CAC  03227  COWELL  SC-116

 English 358:328:  The Peevish and the Perverse in Eighteenth-Century Literature

What draws us away from the world we share in common to the worlds we create for ourselves? Is value real or imaginary? What separates a ‘normal’ desire from a ‘perverse’ one? This course focuses these questions through the peevish figure in eighteenth-century British literary culture. In Immanuel Kant’s view, some “peevish” individuals seem unable or unwilling to act on their desires; such people are, he says, never satisfied because they do not know where they are going. In the texts we will examine, such characters demonstrate stubborn reluctance to accept at face value what others perceive as self-evident; conversely, they seem perversely attached to ideas and narratives that others dismiss as irrelevant or obsolete. We tend to associate such attachments with guilt, irresponsible escapism, and shameful deviation from the norm. But eighteenth-century literature blows open these associations. The peevish individual, far from an aberration, turns out to be the truest representative of a human species routinely guided not by universal laws but by superstitions, habits, and unexamined desires and prejudices.

Readings will include both poetry and prose, across a variety of forms and genres, from the following authors: Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, William Blake, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walter Scott, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, David Hume, Adam Smith, and Immanuel Kant.

Course components include active participation, regular reading quizzes, several short reading responses, and a draft and revision of a mid-length final paper.

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