A course that explores the emergence and consolidation of the English novel and its dynamic relationship to many other 18th-century legacies: the modern individual, capitalism, civil society, the middle class, democracy, and colonialism.
ENGL 333: Eighteenth-Century Fiction
The English Novel and the Cultural Logic of Early Capitalism
Instructor: Prof. Betty Joseph
The historical coincidence of the novel’s “birth” at the same time as capitalism means that the literary form embodies many of the features and contradictions of Europe’s emergent economic system.
This course introduces you to significant works of the long eighteenth century, from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe to Frances Burney’s Cecilia. We will explore connections between these works and the philosophical, economic, and political ideas of the period in order to understand the cultural power of what was then regarded as a radical, new format for storytelling—the novel. Studying cultural forms like the novel helps us answer key questions like these: How did capitalism become a cultural, economic and political formation that weaved itself effectively and systematically into the fabric of society in eighteenth-century Britain? How did the values of a new emergent class—the middle class—become the ruling ideas of the time? More specifically, the course will take up the following themes: the novelization of money, anxieties about speculation and credit, downward and upward mobility, the ideal of individualism; the emergence of the middle class and its sexual norms; the emergence of everyday life, the normalization of commercial and financial behaviors, and moral debates about slavery and colonialism.
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719)
Defoe, Roxana (1724)
Richardson, Pamela (1740)
Henry Fielding, Tom Jones (1749)
Sarah Scott, History of Sir George Ellison (1766)
Henry Mackenzie, Man of Feeling (1771)
Helenus Scott, Adventures of a Rupee (1782)
Frances Burney, Cecilia (1782)
2 Short papers, midterm test, 10-page term paper, group presentations,