18th Century Literature—The Art of Satire ~ ENGL 3363—(Revised spring 2014)
Dr. Jonathan Alexander
609-894-9311 or 856-222-9311 (x1123)
E-mail: jalexander@bcc.edu (please use my BCC account)
Online syllabus: http://staff.bcc.edu/faculty_websites/jalexand/3363syl.htm

TEXTS: Most of the materials for this course are to be acquired by each student as needs arise. All students will read a selection of poems which are available online through this syllabus, while the prose readings that students select (fiction, non-fiction and drama) should be accessed either online at one of the sites listed below or purchased in an inexpensive version at the student’s discretion.






COURSE OVERVIEW: This class will be conducted as a blend of seminar-style discussion and independent research. It will serve as an introduction to the broad-ranging literature of the long eighteenth century (from the restoration of England’s monarch in 1660 to the rise of Romanticism in the early 1800s). The 18th Century heralded the rise of the novel, the genre of pornography, the discourse of aesthetics, and scientific experiment. The golden age of satire occurred in England early in the 18th Century, when this genre became a dominant literary form.  Satire is a term applied to any work of literature or art whose objective is ridicule. It is more easily recognized than defined. From ancient times satirists have shared a common aim: to expose foolishness and to effect reform through such exposure.


Attendance: If the student is to profit from any course, he or she must attend class on a consistent basis.

Students must attend all classes for the full duration of each session. Should you need to miss a class for observance of religious holidays, jury duty, military duty, bereavement, or illness, you must notify the instructor by telephone or e-mail prior to or within 24 hours after the class. Without such communication, students forfeit the right to make up missed work. If such communication is made, students will be permitted to make up missed work at the beginning of the following class meeting. It is, therefore, the student’s responsibility to read the syllabus and be prepared for current as well as missed assignments.

Entering class late or leaving class early (without prior authorization) is considered disrespectful and will not be tolerated.

Academic Etiquette: Students will respect themselves, their peers and their instructors by considering the following:

Cell phones must be kept on silent. No calls are to be made or received during class. If you are expecting an important call during the class meeting time, notify me prior to class and quietly excuse yourself if the call is received. No text-messaging or game-playing will be tolerated.

Students who wish to use the restrooms may do so by quietly leaving and re-entering the room. If a student believes he or she will require an absence of more than a few minutes, it is his responsibility to notify me accordingly.

Communication: Many means of communication are available to the student including telephone, e-mail and mailbox.

If you leave a message on my office voice-mail (x1123), please remember to speak clearly and provide your name, course information, and phone number if you request a return call.

Students who send me e-mail and do not receive a reply of any kind within 48 hours should assume it was never received. Such e-mails should be resent. If your message doesn’t present itself as urgent, I may reply quickly and briefly and ask to get back to you before long.

Students who send e-mails containing attachments must save these documents as one of the following types: DOC, DOCX, TXT, or RTF. Please do not send any MAC “Pages” files, ODT or WPS files. You may also choose to copy and paste the text of your assignment into the e-mail message itself, and always send a copy back to yourself  (or another email account) as a receipt to verify if the transmission fails to reach me.

Class Assignments:

All work written and submitted should utilize standard rules of grammar, sentence organization, paragraph organization, and diction.

All formal papers are to be typed, titled, double spaced, and carefully proofread. Documents are not to be held together by paperclips, alligator clips, or other creative measures. Papers will not be accepted unless they are stapled prior to arriving to class. Asking me to borrow a stapler will not place you in a positive light.

All assignments are due on the date specified on the syllabus. Assignments which are not submitted during the class session they are due will be penalized. If you happen to be absent for a particular class session and you wait to submit a paper until the next class meeting, it will lose 15% for each day it is late. NOTE: A “day” is a calendar day, not a class meeting. A paper which is received by email within two hours of the end of the assigned class session will be considered submitted on time (without a penalty for lateness). A paper which is received after two hours, but before 10pm, will incur a late penalty of 5%. All other papers received after 10pm on the assigned day will incur a 15% penalty per day.

If a student presents reasonable justification for an absence, this absence will not be counted against the student’s course grade; however, such an absence does not allow for more time to complete assignments. Since students are provided with all assignments and deadlines on the first day of the semester, excuses such as “crashed computers,” “misplaced data,” “misplaced flash drives,” or “empty printer ink cartridges” will not be accepted. There is no excuse for not saving all documents twice (hard drive and floppy/flash).

Plagiarism will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Be aware that plagiarism includes (but is not limited to) copying someone else’s words without crediting the source; paraphrasing someone else’s words without crediting the source; using someone else’s ideas without crediting the source (even if rephrased in your own words); using facts not universally known which are obtained from a source without crediting the source; asking someone else to write your paper, either in whole or in part; or obtaining a paper or portion thereof by any means and submitting it as an original document. The penalty for plagiarism is failure of the assignment and potentially failure of the course (at the instructor’s discretion), and it may result in suspension or expulsion from the College (at the discretion of the Student Affairs Committee). Please refer to the Student Handbook for additional information regarding University regulations and the handling of plagiarism.




















Schedule of Meetings and Assignments:


Tuesday, January 28

Introduction to the Enlightenment

Thursday, January 30

Selection of Assigned Readings

Discussion of Assignments

Thursday, February 6

PRESENTATIONS—Prose/Philosophy (GROUP 1)

Thursday, February 13

PRESENTATIONS—Prose/Philosophy (GROUP 2)


Thursday, February 20


Thursday, February 27


Thursday, March 6


Thursday, March 13


FINAL MINI-ESSAY DUE: Choose three of the sayings of La Rochefoucauld and, through personal examples and illustrations, discuss the truth of it in terms of your experience or understanding (100 words each).

Options for assigned readings:


1.      John Adams

2.      Mary Astell

3.      George Berkeley

4.      Edmund Burke

5.      Catharine Trotter Cockburn

6.      St. Jean de Crevecoeur

7.      Rene Descartes

8.      Denis Diderot

9.      Jonathan Edwards

10.  Émilie, Marquise du Châtelet-Laumont

11.  Benjamin Franklin

12.  Thomas Hobbes

13.  David Hume

14.  Thomas Jefferson

15.  Immanuel Kant

16.  Gottfried Leibniz

17.  John Locke

18.  Thomas Paine

19.  Alexander Pope

20.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau

21.  Baruch Spinoza

22.  Mary Wollstonecraft

23.  Jonathan Swift

24.  Voltaire

25.  Alexander Baumgarten

26.  Adam Smith

27.  Francis Bacon

28.  Moses Mendelssohn

29.  Jeremy Bentham

30.  Giambattista Vico


Fiction/ Drama

1.      Eliza Haywood (Love in Excess)

2.      John Dryden (All for Love)

3.      William Wycherly (The Country Wife)

4.      William Wycherly (The Plain Dealer)

5.      John Gay (The Beggar’s Opera)

6.      Oliver Goldsmith (She Stoops to Conquer)

7.      Oliver Goldsmith (The Vicar of Wakefield)

8.      Frances Burney (Evelina, or The History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World)

9.      William Congreve (The Way of the World)

10.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Faust)

11.  Voltaire (Candide)

12.  George Farquhar (The Beaux Stratagem)

13.  Richard Sheridan (The School for Scandal)

14.  Richard Steele (The Tender Husband)

15.  Samuel Richardson (Clarissa)

16.  Lawrence Sterne (Tristram Shandy)

17.  Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe)

18.  Daniel Defoe (Moll Flanders)

19.  Tobias Smollett (The Adventures of Roderick Random)

20.  Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels)

21.  Henry Fielding (Tom Jones)

22.  Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto)

23.  William Godwin (Things as They Are, or Caleb Williams)

24.  Charles Brockden Brown (Wieland)

25.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (The Sorrows of Young Werther)

26.  Royall Tyler (The Contrast)

27.  Nicholas Rowen (The Fair Penitent)

28.  Ann Radcliffe (The Mysteries of Udolpho)

29.  Moliere (Tartuffe)




1.      An Account of the Greatest English Poets - by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

2.      Azolan - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

3.      The Castle on the Mountain - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

4.      The Dance of the Dead - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

5.      An Elegy on a Lap-dog - by John Gay (1685-1732)

6.      The Fisherman - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

7.      From Love to Friendship - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

8.      The Glove - by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)

9.      Hymn - by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

10.  In Camp Before Philippsburg, July 3, 1734 - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

11.  The Man and the Flea - by John Gay (1685-1732)

12.  The Modern Amadis - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

13.  On the Death of Adrienne Lecouvreur, a Celebrated Actress - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

14.  The Origin of Trades - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

15.  The Padlock - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

16.  A Portrait - by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816)

17.  The Reunion - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

18.  The Ring of Polycrates - by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)

19.  The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

20.  Sweet William's Farewell to Black-Ey'd Susan - by John Gay (1685-1732)

21.  The Temple of Friendship - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

22.  Thelema and Macareus - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

23.  To a Lady Very Well Known to the Whole Town - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

24.  To Her Royal Highness, the Princess of *** - by Voltaire (1694-1778)

25.  To Luna - by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

26.  To Mr. Dryden - by Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

27.  To the Queen of Hungary - by Voltaire (1694-1778)


The Enlightenment


“Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.”
                            Pope, Essay on Man (37-38)


“True eloquence consists in saying all that is necessary, and nothing but what is necessary”--La Rochefoucauld


“Because I wished to give myself entirely to search after Truth, it was necessary . . . to reject as absolutely false everything as to which I could imagine the least ground of doubt.” Descartes (81)

“Cogito, ergo sum.” (the thinking subject)


Empiricism and John Locke’s Tabula Rasa (blank slate):  “Let us assume the mind to be . . . void of all characters, without any ideas”


“All ideas comes from sensation or reflection. . . . We have nothing in our minds, which does not come in one of these two ways”


Scientific Methods

a. Inductive reasoning: building from the observation of particular evidence to a general thesis or conclusion. From specific to general (Bacon)

b. Deductive Reasoning: testing a thesis through reference to particular evidence. From general to specific (Descartes)

Deism, or Natural Religion

God as “the master mechanic [or watch-maker] who had created the universe, then stepped aside and allowed his World-Machine to run unattended” (82).


Literary Genres of the Enlightenment or the Augustan Age

Didactic literature: emphasis on appealing to common sense and reason and to a growing and newly literate middle class.  The virtues of this literature are clarity, brevity, order, symmetry, verisimilitude, and following Classical, especially Roman (hence the descriptor “Augustan”), literary models; characteristics (“vices”) opposed by Neoclassical literature include extravagance, obscurity, elaborate wordplay, fantasy, sensuality, emotionalism.

Heroic couplets and maxims (“Brevity is the soul of wit”)

The journalistic essay; the encyclopedia; the dictionary

The Age of Satire

Culture and Society (Monarchy (“divine right of kings”), Locke, Jefferson and Hobbes; Economy, Smith; Women’s rights, Wollstonecraft


The Age of Satire: “Satire is a literary art that censures human wickedness or folly” (Dr. Johnson)

Sir Philip Sidney: “Satire is an imitation of the common errors of life, which the artist represents in the most scornful and ridiculous sort that may be, so as it is impossible that any beholder can be content to be such an one.”

Types of satire

1. The Horation or Sociocentric: while criticizing human behavior, this type of satire offers an ideal of right conduct (or “satiric norm”) against which to measure its criticism. It optimistically suggests human beings can improve their conduct and amend their ways.

2. The Juvenalian or Egocentric: a harsh form of satire that viciously attacks human degeneracy and reflects little or no confidence that human beings can change their evil ways. In other words, the reader has a hard time seeing any satiric norm.


Methods of Analysis

1. What areas of human behavior are satirized? Be specific and give examples.

2. Horation or Juvenalian? Define the satiric norm if you can see one and who or what represents it (it may be implicit, not defined specifically in the work with a concrete example but still available through your interpretation).

3. How reliable is the point of view? Can you trust the narrator (the person telling the story) if there is one, especially that narrator's definition of the satiric norm? Or is that narrator, ironically, part of the satiric subject?


Introduction to the Eighteenth Century

The Restoration and the Eighteenth Century (1660-1785)


The England to which Charles Stuart returned in 1660 was a nation divided against itself, exhausted by twenty years of civil wars and revolution. Early in Charles’s reign, the people were visited by two frightful calamities that seemed to the superstitious to be the work of a divine Providence outraged by rebellion and regicide: the plague of 1665, carried off over seventy thousand souls in London alone, and in September 1666, a fire that raged for four days destroyed a large part of the City (more than thirteen thousand houses), leaving about two-thirds of the population homeless. Yet the nation rose from its ashes, in the century that followed, to become an empire. The Glorious Revolution of 1688-89 established a rule of law, and the Act of Union of 1707, a political alliance, under which England was transformed into Great Britain in fact as well as name—a large country to which people of widely differing backgrounds and origins felt they owed allegiance.


Many scholars think of it as properly three discrete literary eras: the Restoration (1660-1700), dominated by Dryden; the Age of Satire (1700-1745), dominated by Swift and Pope; and the Age of Johnson (1745-1790), dominated not only by Johnson but by a new kind of poetry and a major new literary form, the novel.  n the era of the Restoration, Dryden’s occasional verse, comedy, blank verse tragedy, heroic play, ode, satire, translation, and critical essay and both his example and his precepts had great influence.  In the Age of Satire, the literature is chiefly a literature of wit, concerned with civilization and social relationships, and consequently, it is critical and in some degree moral or satiric. Some of the finest works of this period are mock heroic or humorous burlesques of serious classic or modern modes.

A morbid fascination with death, suicide, and the grave preoccupies the poets of mid-century.  In the typical Gothic romance, set amid the glooms and intricacies of a medireview castle, the laws of nightmare replace the laws of probability.  Forbidden themes—incest, murder, necrophilia, atheism, and the torments of sexual desire—are allowed free play; repressed feelings, morbid fears rise to the surface of the narrative.  The modern novel came into existence in this century. To a large extent, the development of the novel is identical with the attempt to interest the growing number of female readers by shaping their lives into literature.


Historical Background

There are two distinctive periods in the literary styles and tastes of the 18th century.  The first half of the century is  ruled by the great satirists, the second half by the marked development and popularization of the new form of literature, the novel.


The Age of Satire

Philosophers call the 18th century “The Age of Reason,” for people believed that through Reason, Man could reach perfection.  If Man could, his world could as well, and for this reason satire (literary work in which vice and folly are held up to ridicule in an attempt to bring about change) becomes one of the dominant literary styles.  Wit remained highly valued, as well, so the best writers of this period combined satire with biting wit.  The leading writers of this time are:  Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, John Arbuthnot, Delarivier Manley, John Gay (playwright), Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding. This age lasted from around 1704 until roughly 1744-45, the years Swift and Pope died. 

The Essay

Essays became popular reading in this century.  People read to improve their Reason, and the “Reasoned”  form of the essay appealed to them.  After the major essayists of the beginning of the century stopped writing (Swift, Addison, Steele, Defoe, Manley), they were replaced by Samuel Johnson, considered the greatest essayist of the day, and  his follower, Joseph Boswell.  Many other writers were working, of course, but these are the major names.


The Novel

“In 1791 the bookseller James Lackington commented: “There are some thousands of women who frequent my shop, that know as well what books to choose, and are as well acquainted with works of taste and genius, as any gentleman in the kingdom, notwithstanding they sneer against novel readers” (Jane Austin in Style. Susan Watkins.  Thames and Hudson: 1990 18). The novel form was actually being developed in England as early as the 1680s by writers like Aphra Behn, but in the beginning of the 18th century we see a huge leap in its development.  Major names here are:  Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Delarivier Manley, Laurence Stern, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Sarah Fielding (brother and sister), Maria Edgeworth, Eliza Haywood, Mary Hays, Mary Davis. Yes, women predominate the list, for this was a way that women could write without a need for great learning (they were barred from higher education for the most part).  Also, women made up a large part of the novel's audience, so it makes sense for women to be writing the novel.


Poetry and Plays

After the end of the Restoration period (around 1714, when the last Stuart monarch, Anne, died and the German ruling family, the Hanovers, took over in the form of George I), the stage in England becomes a pretty dismal place, and for the most part remains that way until the late 19th century.  Plays were no longer a major literary form.  After the death of  Pope and Swift, poetry is no longer the preferred form and the prose works of this period are much stronger.  But there are a few important names: Oliver Goldsmith (poems and plays), Richard Brinsley Sheridan (plays), Thomas Gray, William Collins, Christopher Smart, William Cowper.



This trend begins in the beginning of the 18th century and develops through the century until it became so exaggerated that Jane Austen mildly satirizes it in her novel Sense and Sensibility (1811).  What is it?  Reduced to very simple terms, it is a reliance on feeling, on emotion, and is often linked with “sentimental” writing, which is characterized by its high moral tone and its faith in the triumph of good over evil.


Enlightenment Notes 

Rationalist Tradition

Tends to try to construct a world system from a priori reasoning as opposed to bits and pieces observation (i.e. empiricism). It is not just being reasonable; it is making reason everything.

Rene Descartes (1591-1650, French): aimed to try to build knowledge from scratch

Discourse on Method (1637): emphasized deduction; tried to doubt everything as a methodoligical tool; je pense, donc je suis, cogito ergo sum.

Believes you can prove existence of God based on idea of perfection implying existence

Claims men have innate ideas and these enable man to make certain statements and deductions. Since God is perfect and good, you can trust the evidence of the senses, allowing for scientific knowledge.

Dualism: distinction between mind and body. The world is made of two incompatible substances (mind and matter)


Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677, Dutch Jewish): Everything is God, God is everything

Ethics (1677)


Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716, German): proposed a world of infinite things


Empiricist Tradition: All knowledge is derived from experience.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626, English): forerunner of empiricism school


Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679, English): keen awareness of observed human behavior


John Locke (1632-1704, English): contributed concept of epistemology (science of how we know what we know). Held that all knowledge comes from sense impressions made on the mind at birth (tabula rasa, blank slate). Linked to scientific idea of induction. You never have certain knowledge, just highly probable knowledge.

“Essay Concerning Human Understanding” (1690)

“Two Treatises of Government” (1690)


David Hume (1711-1761, Scottish):

“Treatise on Human Nature” (1739)

“An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding” (1748)

“Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” (1777)

If you propose that the mind is born with no innate way of making sense of the world, there’s a problem as to how you can know that the sense it does make accords with reality. Hume ends with extreme skepticism that anything can be known at all, including God.


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804, German): dealt with problems and issues raised by both empiricists and rationalists. Proposed categorical imperative: do what you wish to be a universal law.


Francois-Marie Arouet Voltaire (1694-1778, French)

Candide (1759)


The Neoclassical Penchant for the Aphoristic

("True eloquence consists in saying all that is necessary, and nothing but what is necessary"--La Rochefoucauld)

I. Heroic Couplets from Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

'Tis with our judgments as our watches, none
Go just alike, yet each believes his own.

Let such teach others who themselves excel,
And censure freely who have written well.

Nature to all things fixed the limits fit,
And wisely curbed proud man's pretending wit.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.

True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed.

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those who move easiest who have learned to dance.

Avoid extremes; and shun the fault of such
Who still are pleased too little or too much.

Good nature and good sense must ever join;
To err is human, to forgive divine.

All seems infected that the infected spy,
As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.

Men must be taught as if you taught them not,
And things unknown proposed as things forgot.

--from an "Essay on Criticism" (1711)

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan,
The proper study of Mankind is Man.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.

And, spite of pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.

II. Maxims of La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) FOR FINAL MINI-ESSAY

1. Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example.

2. We all of us have sufficient strength to bear the misfortunes of others.

3. It requires greater virtue to support good, than bad fortune.

4. If we had no faults ourselves, we should not take so much pleasure in remarking them in others.

5. Those who spend too much time on trifling things generally become incapable of great ones.

6. We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.

7. Truth does not so much good in the world as its appearances do evil.

8. Hypocrisy is the homage which vice renders to virtue.

9. Grace is to the body what good sense is to the mind.

10. It is with true love as with ghosts. Everyone talks of it, but few have ever seen it.

11. Silence is the best course for any man to adopt who distrusts himself.

12. How can we expect another to keep our secret if we cannot keep it ourselves?

13. We should have very little pleasure if we did not sometimes flatter ourselves.

14. It is easier to be wise for others than for ourselves.
15. We seldom praise but to be praised.

16. The world more often rewards the appearance of merit than merit itself.

17. Our repentance is not so much regret for the evil we have done, as fear of its consequences to us.

18. A truly virtuous man is he who prides himself on nothing.

19. As we grow older, we become more foolish and more wise.

20. In the adversity of our best friends, we often find something which does not displease us.

21. It is a great ability to be able to conceal one's ability.

22. Narrowness of mind is the cause of stubbornness--we do not easily believe what is beyond our sight.

23. We like to judge others, but we do not like to be judged ourselves.

24. We always love those who admire us, ane we do not always love those whom we admire.

25. We often pardon those who weary us, but we cannot pardon those whom we weary.

26. Weak persons cannot be sincere.

27. We confess our little faults only to persuade others that we have no great ones.

28. When our hatred is too keen, it places us below those we hate.

29. We think very few people sensible except those who are of our opinion.

30. There are few people more often n the wrong than those who cannot endure to be so.

31. We are sometimes less unhappy in being deceived by those we love than in being undeceived by them.

32. The greatest gift of friendship is not to show our own faults, but to make him see his own.

33. We easily pardon in our friends those faults which do not concern ourselves.

34. Quarrels would not last long, if the fault was only on one side.

35. When we cannot find contentment in ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.