ENGL 3164 History and Literature of Georgian Britain

Instructor Contact:

John A. Stevenson

Email: john.stevenson@colorado.edu

About the Course:

The historical period known as Georgian England runs from 1714-1830. That period encompassed a time of extraordinary change:  Great Britain, arguably the most powerful nation in the world by 1800, gained an empire in the new world that it then lost with the American Revolution, cities (especially London) grew explosively, the Industrial Revolution began, the novel as a literary genre was born, women and the working classes began to assert their rights, and that’s only to name a few.  Literature and the arts—in poetry, in fiction, in painting, in music, in drama, in architecture—were at a pinnacle. The course will focus on modules that explore some of the most important political, historical, and literary facets of the period:  criminal justice and the legal system, the power of satire, the country vs the city, love and marriage, the class system, and the development of a new kind of personal poetry with the Romantic movement.  We will study writers and artists such as Swift, Wordsworth, Austen, and Mary Shelley, as well as additional reading in primary sources on crime and justice.

As a student in the course, you will learn about the complex politics of the era, the realities of life in London (especially the peculiar—to modern eyes—British legal system), the rise of the novel as a new literary form, and the development of a revolutionary conception of poetry by the Romantic writers. These themes will give you a strong foundation in both the literature and history of the period, a period whose influences are still felt today. You will understand our present moment in history better as a result of the deep dive into Georgian England that this course provides.


After completing this course, you should be able to:

*You will be able to read and comprehend a variety of texts from the Georgian period written in a number of different forms such as satire, the novel, and the lyric poem.

*You will learn why important new literary forms arose in the Georgian period–such as the novel or the lyric poem–and how they became so popular and influential.

*You will learn to critically assess and discuss the themes and intentions of these Georgian literary texts.

*You will develop a good understanding of the relationship between the history and literature of this period.

*You will formulate interpretations of these texts that you are able to defend with a textual evidence, work you will demonstrate in the various writing assignments you are given.

*You will develop an understanding of how the developments and ideas of the Georgian period continue to be relevant and how they influence our world today.

In addition to these historical and literary elements, in this course your aim should also be focused on improving your critical reading, thinking, and writing skills.

*Critical reading is the ability to recognize literary devices, such as allusions, underlying assumptions, subtle implications, and meaningful omissions in a particular text.

*Critical thinking is the ability to analyze the significance of literary devices, and includes assessing the relationship between a text and the cultural and historical period in which it was written.

*Critical writing is the ability to successfully articulate an analysis, explaining how it leads to a particular interpretation of a text. An effective critical analysis provides textual evidence to support a particular interpretation of a text.

Required Texts:

You will need access to copies of the four required textbooks for this course: Gulliver’s TravelsPride and Prejudice, The Castle of Otranto, and Frankenstein.  It is a good idea to use the editions of Swift, Austen, and Walpole that I have ordered (Gulliver is published by Penguin, and Pride and Prejudice and Otranto are published by Oxford).   However, it is imperative that you get access to the edition of Frankenstein that I have ordered (from Broadview Press).  Frankenstein was published in several editions and was significantly revised.  We all need to be reading the same version of this novel, the 1818, which is the one published by Broadview.


Assignment Grade Percentages
Course Quiz & Self-Introduction   3%
Discussion Posts (5 sets) 47%
Two Formal Papers (17% each) 35%
Creative Project, Proposal, Posts & Reflection Paper 15%

Course Assignments

 – Reading Assignments

For this course, you will read two novels, two voyages from Gulliver’s Travels  (the ones to Lilliput and to Laputa), documents related to a criminal trial, and a number of poems. These are older works of literature and the language can be difficult at times, but careful reading and a willingness to use the dictionary will help. To get the most out of this class, commit yourself to reading each assigned work carefully, with undivided attention, and with enthusiasm!   All of these works have withstood the test of time.

Required assignments include one course quiz, six in-depth discussion posts (each with a required follow-up post); two analytical papers; and a final creative project (for which you can  substitute another paper).

– Syllabus & Getting Started Quiz (worth 2% of course grade):

Your first task when you begin this class is to read the syllabus and the assignment schedule, and browse through the additional documents in Modules. Then, you’ll take the Syllabus Quiz. This quiz is a chance for you to tell me about yourself, your interests, and your goals for this class. You’ll also answer questions to show that you understand key policies for this class. Also, be sure to post your self-introduction on the discussion board–it’s part of the quiz score!

– Discussion Posts (worth 48% of course grade):

During this course, you need to write 16 discussion board postings (these include both initial posts and responses to other students’ responses). The discussions are your opportunity to demonstrate what you’re learning, share your ideas, and learn from your classmates. These posts are worth a significant percentage of the course grade, and each post should reflect substantial, analytical work. Each post will be scored on a 20-point scale; at the end of the term, I will average the scores for your various posts to determine the overall grade for your posts, which will count for 48% of your final grade.  Check the assignment schedule for due dates.

Late Policy for Discussion Posts: Discussion posts represent a substantial percentage of your course work. Give them your full attention. You may post answers as soon as the discussions open for each lesson, but be sure to post by each due date. LATE posts lose valuable points quickly and can receive only partial credit for the first 24 hours after the deadline. All deadlines are based on US Rocky Mountain time; if you are in a different time zone, you are responsible for making the necessary adjustments to ensure that your posts appear on time.

– Paper Assignments (worth 35% of course grade):

You will write two (or three, depending on your choice for your final work) formal papers for this course, 3-5 pages in length, depending on the assignment. These papers must be submitted in order for you to be eligible for a passing grade in the class. Due dates are listed on the course calendar.  The first paper will be graded on a 40 point scale, and the second on a 60 point scale.  I will average them to arrive at your total grade for your two papers. If you choose the write the third paper, it will count for 15% of your overall grade.  (for more details on the third paper option, see below).

Please save each paper in a MS-Word doc file and submit a copy in the Assignment folder (in each assignment description will appear in Modules). You will receive comments directly in your first paper that you should use to proofread your second paper before submitting it. To see these comments, return to the assignment (about one week after the due date) and read the comments in the feedback box. Also click on Submission Details (right side of screen). Then, click on View Feedback (left of comment box). Select the Full Screen option to view all the comments embedded in your paper.

Late Policy for Formal Papers: Late papers will lose a full letter grade each day after the due date. Extensions may be granted on a case-by-case basis. If you need to make arrangements for an extension, please contact your TA before the paper due date.

– Final Creative Project (worth 15% of course grade):

The final project for this course is an opportunity to explore one of the writers or works (or in the case of Canning, events)  on our reading list in more detail. You can write a 5-page paper on Frankenstein–see the schedule for this week for a fuller description.  OR you can choose to do a creative project:  that is, you can select a creative method of analyzing this text. You may use a variety of technology tools and/or artistic mediums to present your analysis of the play to the rest of the class.

If you choose the creative project option, a proposal is required. In the proposal, you identify the writer or work that you’ve chosen, and outline your plan for studying and presenting what you want to say. The proposal is worth 2% of the project grade.

The final project grade includes your presentation and description, and a self-reflection critique of your project. See the Assignment Calendar for all due dates. No late creative projects will be accepted.


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