Course Instructor Days Times Room


Samuel Johnson was perhaps the most influential author, critic, and literary mentor of the second half of the eighteenth century. Throughout his life Johnson showed unusual sympathy towards the poor and oppressed, and he championed the work of women authors. His literary scope was immense and encompassed travel writing, political satire, literary criticism, drama, the periodical essay, biography, fiction, poetry, lexicography, scholarly editing, and journalism. This celebrated and towering literary figure was, however, beset by physical and psychological suffering. As a child, he barely survived smallpox and contracted scrofula (a form of tuberculosis). As an adult, he exhibited behavior associated with Tourette’s syndrome. He experienced periods of deep melancholy and some of his greatest intellectual achievements were framed by his frank acknowledgement of the emotional toil of creative work. Over the semester, we will tease out some of the paradoxes and complexities of Johnson’s works and character, both in his own time and in ours. We will read Johnson’s writing alongside that of his contemporaries, including members of his inner circle and members of his Literary Club (which attracted the leading cultural figures of eighteenth-century London). This course covers the diverse genres which occupied Johnson’s literary energies and reflects the rich print culture of the second half of the eighteenth century.

Note: Some of the readings include explicit sexual content.


10± reading quizzes; 2 short papers (3-4 pp.); 1 long paper (8-9 pp.); 1 Dictionary Exercise (2 pp.); lively participation (with 2 discussion responses); final exam


Please be sure to purchase these editions of the following required texts:

James Boswell, London Journal, 1762-1763, James Boswell (Penguin ISBN 9780140436501)

Samuel Johnson, The Major Works, ed. Donald Greene (Oxford ISBN 9780199538331)

Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote (Oxford ISBN 9780192835727)

Samuel Richardson, Pamela (Oxford ISBN 9780192829603)

R. B.  Sheridan, The School for Scandal and Other Plays, R. B. Sheridan (Oxford ISBN 9780199540099)

Additional scanned readings will need to be printed out from our ELC site.