ENGL 42204 / 53501: English literature 1660-1789

Spring 2019 - MW 4.30-5.45 - LA 116


Students who elect this course in the "long eighteenth century” will study English poetry, drama, and intellectual history from the Restoration to about 1740, with some glances back at the Revolutionary period and ahead to Dr. Johnson. We will concentrate on some canonical writers (Dryden, Swift, Pope), the cavalier lyrical tradition and its excesses (Marvell, Cowley, Waller, Rochester), emerging women writers (Philips, Finch, Behn), drama (Wycherley, Congreve) as well as the notion of “enlightenment” (Locke, Hobbes, Astell). Analytical, argumentative, and research writing in the discipline will also be a frequent topic.

This is a great age for philosophy, history, theater, the rise of women writers, the development of the novel, painting (Peter Lely), sculpture, architecture (Christopher Wren), and, of course, music. Two great English composers of the late seventeenth century are John Blow and Henry Purcell. Use these links to give them a listen if you can, and enjoy. You probably already know about Haydn and Mozart, but their name links will lead you to music samples, as well.

My Earl of Rochester page

LibriVox audiorecording of Congreve's The Way of the World

Intro  Act 1  Act 2  Act 3  Act 4  Act 5



van der Helst, Portrait of an unknown couple

General Information and Course Book

Office:  LA 233  Hours: please contact me

email: stapletm@pfw.edu   phone: 481.6841 (message)

webpage: www.elmlsteach.org

blog: shakespeareinyourface.blogspot.com


Lipking and Noddle, eds: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, vol. c: The Restoration and Eighteenth Century

Electronic Devices:

Yes, please. Feel free. I only ask that you use their magic powers for Good.

7 January

English Revolution, Stuarts and Hanoverians, Glorious Revolution, "Enlightenment," satire, epic, mock epic, cavalier lyric, ode, occasional poetry

explanation of course policies, presentations

Restoration, Charles II, Annus Mirabilis

9 January

John Dryden: "To the Memory of Mr. Oldham" (2208); "MacFlecknoe" (2236); Absalom and Achitophel (2212); An Essay on Dramatic Poesy (2251); wit and satire (2257)

Plague (1665): Dawson

Great Fire (1666): Kristen

14 January


Oliver Cromwell: Katelyn

Long Parliament (1641): Steph

16 January


Popish Plot (1678): Greg

James II: Elise

23 and 28 January

And yet more Dryden

John Locke: Emily Jones

Dryden on wit and satire in the textbook: Jane

17th century couple, perhaps Duke and Duchess of Newcastle

30 January

John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, "The Disabled Debauchee" (2297); "A Satire against Reason and Mankind" (2301); "Love and Life: A Song" (web); "The Fall" (web); "Song of a Young Lady to Her Ancient Lover" (web)

Thomas Hobbes : Andrew

libertinism : Cole

4 February


René Descartes: Vanessa

Baruch Spinoza: Bailey

6 February

Aphra Behn, "The Disappointment" (2310); "On a Juniper-Tree" (web)

Deism: Steph

Hobbes (reschedule): Andrew

11 February

13 February

Debating Women (2766-85)

Nell Gwyn: Emily Masterson

Mary Astell: Kristen


18 February

More debate

Anne Killigrew: Alexa

Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon: Ella

John Collet, The Courtship

20 February

And yes, even more debate than that

Enlightenment concept or philosopher: Dawson

25 February

Mary Astell, Reflections (2421), "Answer" (3018); Defoe (2425), Collier, Barber, and Jones (2445-49)

English writer of the era not on syllabus: Kate

27 February

More of this material from the previous class period

English historical event of the era: Elise

11 March

 Katherine Philips, "Ode" (web);  "To Mrs. M. A." (web);  "Friendship's Mystery" (web); "Persuading a Lady" (web)

Continental event of the era: Greg

13 March

More Philips

Important woman of the era we need to hear about: Emily Jones

18 March

Congreve, The Way of the World

Significant work of art or architecture of the era: Bailey

William Hogarth with his pug, self-portrait, Tate Gallery

20 March

Congreve, The Way of the World

English historical event: Ella

25 March

more Congreve

 Enlightenment concept or thinker: Alexa

27 March

more, more Congreve

English writer of the era not on the syllabus: Jane


1 April

 Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock; An Essay on Criticism; An Essay on Man

Important woman of the era we need to know about: Emily Masterson

3 April

More Pope

Continental event of the era: Vanessa

8 April

More Pope

Significant work of art or architecture: Andrew


10 April

More Pope

George I: Dawson

15 April

 "A Modest Proposal" (2633) 

17 April

Swift,  "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift" (2468) ; "A Modest Proposal" (2633)  

22 April

 more Swift; and Montagu, "The Lover" (handout)

24 April

Dr. Johnson's review of Soame Jenyns's Free Inquiry (web)

3 May


First Paper Assignment

The Prompt

Choose a section of Absalom and Achitophel devoted to one of the characters or an extended social or political observation.  1. Explain how Dryden creates the "portrait": salient detail, wit, humor, the effectiveness of the couplet form, and whatever else. Prosody would help.  2. Do some research on the Enlightenment: which philosophical concept or aesthetic ideal does your passage seem to reflect?

As assistance: here is a pretty good introduction, Anthony Pagden's The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters (Oxford, 2013).  This preview from Google provides the introduction and the first chapter. It should help.

Here is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on “The Enlightenment

And, given the "portrait" element of the assignment, you might want to look into neoclassical art and aesthetics.

The Getty Museum's guide to the eighteenth century

Linda Walsh, Guide to Eighteenth-

Century Art

Here is an essay on Absalom and Achitophel:

Zwicker and Hirst, "Rhetoric and Disguise" (1981)

Strongly Suggested

Have an argument. You're proving a point. Study the Writing page in the menu above. Avoid summary.  Don't wait until the night before the essay is due to begin. If this is your usual practice and you don't feel like upping your game, prepare yourself for a rough ride. 

Listen to the poem while reading:

First Part  ll 1-490

Second Part  ll 491-1031


4-5 pp.

reputable sources. 

due via email in a Word document on Friday 15 February by 9 a.m.  


Late papers  = 0.  Good news: you can revise this if you meet with me in my office beforehand.  

Midterm exam

The Prompt

Read everything we've been studying so far through the lens of The Way of the World.  Find important lines and passages in the play that reverberate with memorable and significant lines and passages in the previous course material.  This is your opportunity to show me  what you're learning and how you might apply it.

There are several ways to approach this task.  The most important advice is twofold: know the texts you're talking about; don't begin the assignment the night before it's due.

What lines, words, behaviors, attitudes, proverbial statements &c. from Congreve's play reverberate back into Dryden, Rochester, Behn, Astell, Philips, and the "debate" authors? Examples:

Do Dryden's human portraiture and the characters in The Way of the World  have anything in common?

Most of our poets, male and female, have troubled relationships with masculinity, just as most of us moderns do. Do Mr. Mirabell and Mr. Fainall seem to be prefigured in the gender-related poetry?

What lines by Philips best apply to Congreve's play? Or by Behn? Rochester?

We've joked about HBO shows such as Sex and the City and Girls, each of which features a quartet of  women who might represent four types of womanhood. Guess what? Congreve's play likewise features four major women characters: Millamant, Marwood, Fainall née Languish, and Wishfort.  Could passages about women in our poetry be applied profitably to them?

4-5 pp.

due via email in a Word document on Friday 29 March by 9 a.m.  


Late papers  = 0.  Good news: you can revise this if you meet with me in my office beforehand. 


Second exam


The Prompt

As we've learned in our reading and in our research for presentations, there are at least two Enlightenments. One is "official," positivist, optimistic, and impersonal. Another is "alternative": negative, cynical, critical, and strangely personal.  Sometimes they seem to collide or contradict one another in the same poem, as Elise noticed in An Essay on Man.

Nevertheless, the standard Enlightenment might best be represented by Pope's Essay. Though Congreve, Swift, and Dr. Johnson might share some of Pope's  literary politics, their moral visions might be more complex than that proffered in the Essay.

For your exam, incorporate as many of  these  quotations from the Essay as you can. Then analyze how Swift, Congreve, and Johnson would respond to these philosophical expressions, using specific examples from their work. The best strategy would be to attempt a one-to-one correspondence between one of the six passages and a quotation from either The Way of the World, "Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift," or Johnson's review of Jenyns's Free Enquiry.

 And you don't need to limit yourselves to these three.  Some of the poems in the "Debating Women" section of your anthology might work well in this discussion of destiny, social class, and the role of a benevolent creator in human existence. Montagu's "The Lover" would be an interesting choice for discussion, given her pessimism about finding a decent mate of the male species. You are welcome to incorporate other writers from our semester or those from the period that you've encountered in your reading.

Whatever IS, is RIGHT. (294)    

Respecting man, whatever wrong we call, 

May, must be right, as relative to all. (51-52)   

‘Tis but a part we see, and not the whole. (60)   

In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies. (123)   

to reason right is to submit. (164)   

The bliss of man (could pride that blessing find)

Is not to think or act beyond mankind. (189-90)

Who finds not Providence all good and wise, 

 Alike in what it gives, and what denies? (205-06)  


4-5 pp.

no need for secondary materials

due Friday 3 May, 9 a.m. via email


no late papers

I would rather not have to return these with commentary unless you specifically request it

Course Policies

Mr. and Mris. William Hallet, by Gainsborough


You are allowed five (5) absences for any reason you choose. Students who miss more than this will fail the course, without exception, regardless of circumstances. I do not distinguish between “excused” and “unexcused” absences, nor am I responsible for material that you miss because you are absent. Students who miss the attendance call (the first five minutes of class) will be marked absent; students who get up and leave in the middle of class will be marked absent


  • take care of your rest room issues BEFORE class. If you must leave for a moment, give us the high sign.
  • do not sleep in class, do not put your head on your desk. If you are tired or ill, depart.


NOTE: if you signed up for the class, it is understood that you can attend it regardless of family or employment obligations. If you have emergencies, this is why you have absences allowed.  Doctors's notes, team travel letters, and other personal effects do not entitle students to extra absences. If circumstances prevent you from observing the attendance policy, drop the course.  


Your paper and take-home exams are due on the scheduled non-class dates by 9 a.m. via email. Late papers = 0. No exceptions. These will be short, 4-6 pp. for undergrads, 10-15 pp. for grads. Your paper and first exam may be revised after meeting with the instructor in the office and discussing your plans.


it should go without saying that students are also expected to do their own work; indebtedness to secondary materials (either printed or electronic) must be clearly indicated so as to avoid plagiarism: 

—(piecemeal) using someone else’s words and phrases as if they were your own, not pararphrasing or summarizing properly, even with proper documentation;
—(grotesque) using someone else’s ideas as if they were your own, without proper documentation;
—(more grotesque) allowing someone else to write your paper for you.    



The course grade will be determined by a rough averaging together of your essay on an assigned topic, take-home midterm, and take-home final exam, and the less formal writing I will assign individually for presentational purposes.  I reserve the right to take into additional factors into account; improvement, class participation, and, of course, attendance. Grades are not negotiable, personal, or subject to the influence of extracurricular academic factors.


You may email me at any time. I will usually get back to you quickly: stapletm@pfw.edu


I always acknowledge an email submission with a reply confirming receipt. If you DON'T hear from me after a reasonable period of time, it means I didn't get the paper. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up in this case, not mine. 


Since our class is relatively small, we'll try and run things like a seminar for part of every class period.  I'll be assigning our short  presentation topics ahead of time, or you can volunteer. (They will sharpen your mind, help engage you, and certainly help your grade.)  Usual topics: notable person or event of the era, passage from the night's reading. Before you come to class, you'll write up a brief version of your presentation (one paragraph), including a picture that will help us visualize. And you'll email it to me. I will then post it on my teaching blog, which will be accessible for all to see while you're talking.