Readings in Restoration and 18th C Lit and Culture, 1660-1790

L626 — Fall 2019

Jesse Molesworth
Days and Times
9:30a – 10:45a TR (4 CR.)
Course Description

*This course meets with L740 Research in Aesthetics, Genre, & Form. The 700-level section requires authorization.

TOPIC: Epistolary Fiction from Richardson to the Present

Because it enables access to the “language of the heart,” the epistolary novel has sometimes been understood as the most “realist” of literary forms.  Because it enfranchises the reader to become a character within the fiction itself, it has just as frequently been characterized as the most “illusionistic” of literary forms.  Whatever the case, it peaked in popularity during the eighteenth century but continued in various strains—sometimes as a relic from the past, sometimes in newly updated and transmogrified forms—to the present day. 

This course explores the reasons—sociohistorical, philosophical, and political—for this rise, fall, revival, and revivification.  It also seeks to understand the formal dimensions and aesthetic power of epistolary fiction.  Topics investigated will include but are certainly not limited to the following: the practice of familiar writing during the eighteenth century and earlier, the rise of the aesthetics of sentiment, the emergence of the free indirect style, the temporality of epistolarity, the philosophy of selfhood, the poetics of epistolarity, and the rise of the Gothic and horror fiction.

Primary texts will likely include most if not all of the following: Aphra Behn’s Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister (1684), Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa (1748), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), Jane Austen’s Lady Susan (1794/1871), Arthur Hugh Clough’s Amours De Voyage (1849), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead (2004).  Critics studied will include Janet Altman, Terry Eagleton, Thomas Keymer, Frances Ferguson, Sandra Macpherson, Franco Moretti, and Jonathan Kramnick.

Assignments will include regular attendance and participation, in-class presentations, and a concluding project (an article-length seminar paper for those enrolled at the 700-level, and a conference-style presentation for those enrolled at the 600-level).

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

See complete course details