English 248 - Spring, 2017

18th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Menely, Tobias
CRN: 91282
Time: W 12:10-3:00
Location: 120 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Interdiscipline, Method


    ENL 248: Eighteenth-Century Literature

    Reading Literary Epochs; or, Always Geohistoricize!

    In this seminar, we’ll ask how the interdisciplinary debate on the Holocene-Anthropocene transition might inform the work we do as readers of literary and cultural history, and, in turn, what the critical Humanities might offer to the conceptualization of this geohistorical event. We’ll study the initial formulation of the problem in Earth System science and stratigraphy, as well as its critical reformulation in the Humanities. We’ll ask how eco-theorists, environmental historians, and scholars of literary history have been rethinking analytic categories—symptom and context, form and scale, work and value, distance and duration, mediation and determination, surplus and scarcity, the social and the human—in light of the Anthropocene. This is a seminar on literature of the long eighteenth century, but one of our aims will be to examine how this epochal transition might require us to redefine the scale of literary history, including inherited categories of genre, period, and nation. Over the course of the quarter, we’ll consider Milton’s Paradise Lost as an allegory of epochal transition; we’ll read Defoe’s novel of African exploration, Captain Singleton, in relation to Jason Moore’s theory of the Capitalocene; we’ll put Granger’s plantation georgic The Sugar Cane in dialogue with Anna Tsing’s account of the Plantationocene; we’ll read Macpherson’s Ossian poems through the lens of Eric Gidal’s “biblio-stratigraphy”; we’ll look for what Bonneuil and Fressoz call “reflexivity” in Buffon’s Epochs of Nature; and we’ll ask whether Haraway’s notion of “sympoietic” futurity, in the Chthulucene, can help us read Smith’s Beachy Head and Shelley’s The Last Man.

    Primary texts: Milton, selections from Paradise Lost (1667); Evelyn, selections from Fumifugium (1661); Defoe, Captain Singleton (1720); Granger, The Sugar Cane (1764); Macpherson, The Works of Ossian (1764); Seward, “Colebrook Dale” (1787); Buffon, Epochs of Nature (English trans. 1785); Smith, Beachy Head (1807); Shelley, The Last Man (1826)

    Critical/theoretical texts: Bonneuil and Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene; Davies, The Birth of the Anthropocene; Gidal, Ossianic Unconformities; Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World; Moore (ed.), Anthropocene or Capitalocene?; Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene; Lewis and Maslin, “Defining the Anthropocene”; Will Steffen et al. “The Anthropocene: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives; Colin N. Waters et al, “The Anthropocene is Functionally and Stratigraphically Distinct from the Holocene.”