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About this Lecture
In this module, we think about what writers of the 18th century thought about writing itself, focusing in particular on Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism (1711) and Elizabeth Montagu's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769). Should writers follow the models of ancient writers like Homer and Virgil, as Pope said, or should they 'quit the beaten track' and 'make daring incursions into unexplored regions of invention', as Montague writes?
In this module, Dr James Smith (Royal Holloway, London) provides an introduction to the literature of the 18th century. The course begins by exploring what writers of the 18th century thought about writing itself, focusing in particular on Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism (1711) and Elizabeth Montagu's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare (1769). After that, we look at three texts that demonstrate the different ways in which writers of the period thought about place, including Olaudah Equiano's autobiography (1789) and a scene from Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722). In the third module, we think about the didacticism of the literature of the period, focusing in particular on Samuel Johnson's Rasselas (1759) and Samuel Richardson's Clarissa (1748) before moving on in the fourth module to explore the genre of satire, and looking in particular at Pope's Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot (1735) and Swift's A Modest Proposal (1729). In the fifth module, we think about some of the female writers of the period – including attitudes to female writers and writing – before turning in the sixth and final module to some features of 18th-century poetry, in which we look more closely at two lesser-known poems of the period: Jane Cave's 'The Head-Ache' (1793), and William Collins' 'Ode to Evening' (1746)
James Smith joined Royal Holloway in September 2015, having previously taught in Manchester and in Exeter. His first monograph is about the novelist Samuel Richardson, and he is writing another book on eighteenth-century literary culture, entitled Shakespeare and the Rise of the Novel. He is interested in all aspects of twentieth and twenty first-century literary theory, and in intersections between cultural criticism and politics.
Cite this Lecture
Smith, J. (2018, August 15). 18th-Century Literature - Introduction [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/18th-century-literature-an-introduction/introduction-5777e8b4-e523-4dc4-aea0-d9f8fa5e78f3
Smith, James. "18th-Century Literature – Introduction." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/18th-century-literature-an-introduction/introduction-5777e8b4-e523-4dc4-aea0-d9f8fa5e78f3