E444 – Restoration and 18th-Century Drama
Prerequisite: One course in Literature.
Description: The course examines a self-contained period of English dramatic literature, from the reopening of the theatres in 1660, after the Puritan prohibition, through the masterpieces of the 1770′s. The major focus of the class lies in the analysis and understanding of major plays by major playwrights, and in the evolution of comedy from erotic social comedies of Charles II’s reign to “laughing comedy” at the end of the age of sentiment. Attention will also be given to other representative genres of the period: tragedy, burlesque, and mock heroic and to the relation of literature to intellectual and social issues. The syllabus is flexible, but a student can normally expect works from among Wycherley, Etherege, Dryden, Otway, Behn, Congreve, Farquhar, Steele, Centlivre, Gay, Goldsmith, and Sheridan. Aphra Behn (“the first woman to earn a living from her pen”) and Susanna Centlivre are pioneer women dramatists.
The instructor’s major concern is development of the student’s relationship to the subject, independent thinking about dramatic literature. If the focus is on the literary history of the period, on love and honor (sex and violence), on social satire and moral refinement, on manners, manners, manners, the end is still to strengthen a critical relationship between the student and her/his own culture. Thus, a student need bring no extensive background to the class as long as he or she reads with care and thinks independently.