Course Instructor Days Times Room
ENGL4440 SAXTON, TERESA TR 2 :00 PM 0145


Samuel Johnson, as the leading intellectual of the British eighteenth-century (think a British Benjamin Franklin), helped to shape the late eighteenth-century culture. As such, his most famous work consists of reviews and critical essays. His intellect remains but Johnson is such a figure not only because of his work but also for his character and wit as relayed in his biography by James Boswell. Indeed, part of what Johnson did was change the way in which the individual interacted with the public and how the private became entwined with social capital. Our readings this semester will explore the intersections of the public and the private in the late eighteenth century through readings by Johnson and his contemporaries in a variety of fiction and nonfiction genres.

Course Goals

  1. To read better: eighteenth-century texts often defy our style, plot, and character expectations and are historically rooted in a time somewhat different from our own. To get the most out of these texts, we will need to read slowly and carefully (no skimming!) and take time to acclimate to the different style of eighteenth-century writing (it will get easier and faster by the end of the semester).


  1. To learn about literary form: The eighteenth century saw an explosion of available texts. Our class will look at many different genres addressed that address the cultural complexities of the eighteenth century.  These forms and their audiences, indeed their own public and private forms, help to show the complexities of the age.


  1. To think about cultural impact: The texts we read will interact with cultural changes in the century. We will discuss how some of the themes, ideas, and characters correspond to cultural trends, worries, changes, and events. Johnson will be our touchstone for many of these issues, as he was in his time.


  1. To analyze better and deeper: Each of the goals above need to brought together to think through the meaning of each text. We will be working to use these skills to creating compelling class discussion. We will also be writing in a variety of formats to approach analysis of the readings using different perspectives.


  1. Presentation
  2. Variety of reading responses (memes, character casting, close reading, blog posts)
  3. Abstract and annotated bibliography
  4. Research paper

If you miss more than two weeks worth of class (4 T/TH or 6 MWF), you're grade will be dropped one letter grade.



  • Samuel Johnson, The Major Works
  • James Boswell, The Life of Johnson
  • Sarah Fielding, The Adventures of David Simple
  • Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative
  • Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield
  • Richard Sheridan, The School for Scandal
  • Frances Burney, The Witlings
  • I have also made available a number of readings on our class’s ELC website. When asked, these readings must be printed and brought to class.