Spring 2022

Making Genre in the Eighteenth Century

Listed in: English, as ENGL-307


Amelia Worsley (Section 01)


[Before 1800] Imagine a world where the novel was truly a novel form, and where newspapers were a new idea, and where print had only recently been commercialized. The eighteenth century was a time of great flux in Britain and the US, not only in terms of political change and scientific discovery, but also in terms of the literary world. Poets were beginning to panic that their genre was no longer the dominant mode. Daily journals were changing how people perceived the way time passed. Testimonies from abroad were changing people’s awareness of the world at large. Women were reading in secret, since the men around them often tried to restrict which genres they had access to. Writers who wrote for profit were called “hacks.” Even the very idea of the professional author was under question. In this course, we will consider many different genres of writing, including novels, memoirs, newspapers, lectures, journal articles, travel narratives, plays, and poems, during a period when massive innovations were taking place. Although the majority of the texts we will discuss will be those published in the eighteenth century, we will begin the course with some seventeenth-century texts (such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Francis Bacon’s essays), in order to more fully understand the creative vision of eighteenth-century writers like Daniel Defoe, Joseph Addison, Jonathan Edwards, Anne Finch, Laurence Sterne, Phillis Wheatley, Jane Austen, and Olaudah Equiano. There will be an emphasis on engaging with these texts as they were originally printed, with a chance to engage with archival materials. The course will end with a consideration of how notions of the difference between authors of different genres still persist in the present day.

Recommended requisite: Previous English class preferred. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Professor Worsley.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: emphasis on written work, readings, oral presentations and some independent research Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022