1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Restoration & Eighteenth Century Literature

  • ENEC 8500 The Transatlantic Eighteenth Century

    0930-1200 W - BRYAN 233

    Instructor: John O'Brien

    It does not take much contemplation to realize that the distinction between British and American literatures is in many respects an artificial one, and this is particularly true in the eighteenth century. For most of the period, after all, America was a colony of Great Britain, and the period is full of writers who traveled back and forth, physically and conceptually, between the colonial outposts in the Caribbean and on the east coast of the North American mainland and the imperial center:  Aphra Behn, Benjamin Franklin, Susanna Rowson, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Olaudah Equiano, to name only some of the most prominent of many. This seminar will read texts that reflect and focus the transatlantic nature of eighteenth-century Anglo-American culture, either explicitly, as in the case of Equiano's Interesting Autobiography and Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, or indirectly, as with Joseph Addison's Cato. We will also try to develop the tools that can help us conceptualize the various exchanges, conflicts, and compromises that develop in such a fluid and transformative context by reading in recent critical works such as Michael Warner’s The Letters of the Republic, Julie Ellison’s Cato’s Tears, Joseph Roach’s Cities of the Dead, and Ian Baucom’s Spectres of the Atlantic. The topics we take up will in part be dictated by the interests of the participants, but among them are sure to be the development of transatlantic print culture, the circulation within it of the republic ideal of the civic humanist, and the uneasy relationship between that ideal and the traffic in human lives on which the transatlantic economic system depended.   Requirements:  active participation, a book review, and a course paper.