English 326. Eighteenth-Century Poetry: Epic, Satire and Wit, 1660-1798
Coming after the English Civil War, the period from 1660 to 1800 involved some of the most significant transformations in British life, and poetry played a crucial part. We will begin by looking at vicious satires of gender and sexual relations and of political and religious beliefs composed by Rochester, Behn, Pope, Swift and Montagu. Then, we will chart how poetry changes when authors discover new motives for writing–such as financial gain or describing the exotic locales in Scotland, India and America–or when poetry is written by figures who had historically been excluded from it, like lower-class workers or African Americans. Finally, we will see what happens at the end of the 18th century when poetry becomes visionary and spiritual, as it does for Blake, or self-consciously “ordinary,” as it does for Wordsworth and Coleridge.