English 248 - Fall, 2018

18th Century Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Menely, Tobias
CRN: 43032
Time: R 12:10-3:00
Location: 248 Voorhies
Breadth: Earlier British
Focus: Method, Theory


    Tobias Menely
    English 248

    What is involved in picturing, describing, or conceptualizing the Earth as a system, form, or totality? What types of analysis become possible, or impossible, when the planet is taken as a primary object, or normative scale, of inquiry? In this seminar, we’ll explore connections, and divergences, between different modes of planetary thinking, including Earth System science, world-systems analysis, world-ecology, globalization theory, “world literature,” and literary world-making. Our literary archive for testing these questions of method will consist of texts written between the Restoration and the Romantic period, two centuries in which capitalism was establishing itself as a world-system, in which the globe was being comprehensively mapped, and in which the new sciences were proposing models of the Earth as an object with a history and as a cohesive geophysical system. Reading poetry (including much of Milton’s Paradise Lost), fiction (including Rasselas and Frankenstein), and travel narratives, we’ll consider images of the Earth as seen from the air or from space; ideas of climate and atmosphere as local or global phenomena; concepts of cosmopolitanism, translation, and world literature; figurations of movement (of commodities, of refugees, of languages); representations of commodity frontiers and ungovernable wilderness; and the dynamics of land and sea. We’ll also think about how British literary texts come to be read as “world literature.” We’ll use this literary archive both to establish a genealogy of planetary thinking, from the Enlightenment to the present, and to ask how critical methods organized around the problem of what Spivak calls “planetarity” might inform our approaches to literary history.

    This course will fulfill the breadth requirement in British Literature pre-1800 and the focus requirement in Method or Theory.

    Primary Texts: Milton, selections from Paradise Lost; Thomson, selections from The Seasons; Johnson, The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia; Warton, “The Enthusiast”; Barbauld, “A Summer Evening’s Meditation”; selections from Travel Writing 1700-1830: An Anthology; Smith, Beachy Head; Blake, The Book of Urizen; Shelley, Frankenstein

    Secondary Texts: Spivak, “Planetarity”; Armitage and Subrahmanyam, Introduction to The Age of Revolutions in Global Context; Cohen and Elkins-Tanton, selections from Earth; Elias and Moraru, Introduction to The Planetary Turn; Casanova, “Literature as a World”; Tanoukhi, “The Scale of World Literature”; Lowe, selections from The Intimacies of Four Continents; Sagan, “Umwelt after Uexküll”; Hayot, Introduction to On Literary Worlds; Moore, selections from Capitalism in the Web of Life; Bruno Latour, “The Puzzling Face of a Secular Gaia”; Siskin, selections from System: The Shaping of Modern Knowledge; Wallerstein, World Systems Analysis: An Introduction; Laszlo and Pattee, selections from The Relevance of General Systems Theory; Arrighi, selections from The Long Twentieth Century


    weekly discussion posts
    10- to 12-page essay


    Frankenstein, Shelley
    Rasselas, Johnson
    Paradise Lost (Hacket), Milton
    Travel Writing 1700-1830, Bohls and Duncan