Immoral and Profane? British Drama 1660-1798
English 443, University of Puget Sound
MW 3:00-4:15, Wyatt 107, Fall 2000

Professor: Dan White
Office: Wyatt 341, x. 3428
Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00-4:30, Friday 1:00-2:30, or by appointment
Home Phone: (206) 328-5548 (Discretion is advised)

Course Focus: In this advanced seminar, we will focus on British drama from three distinct cultural moments: the Restoration, the mid eighteenth century (sometimes called "the age of sensibility"), and the Romantic period. You will become acquainted with the major literary movements of "the long eighteenth century" and the specific functions of the drama within its cultures. We will consider the Comedy of Manners of the late seventeenth century in relation to the conflict between Puritan morality and courtly manners that characterized the Restoration. We will then turn to the progression from satire to sensibility in mid-eighteenth-century culture, concluding with an examination of late-eighteenth-century drama in relation to the major popular genre of the early Romantic period, the Gothic. Throughout the course, our reading will allow us to explore one of the central issues of Western culture from Plato through the present day, that of the morality of artistic representation.

Requirements: Two papers , mid-term (5-7 pp.) and final (10-12 pp.); two position papers (3 pp.); two in-class discussion sessions; class participation; attendance. All written work must be titled, double-spaced, paginated, stapled, and printed in Times New Roman 12. Your mid-term and final papers must be submitted in a folder, and this folder must include the following: all previously graded written work, the handout called "Papers: Expectations, Guidelines, Advice, and Grading," and any other materials I have given you as a class or individually regarding your writing. If the folder does not contain all required materials, I will return it to you and mark down the paper one part of a grade for each day the folder is late.

Grading: Your grade will be a combination of the two papers (50%), two position papers (15%), two discussion sessions (15%), and class participation (20%). Class participation is mandatory; if you have difficulty engaging in public discussion, please see me.

Texts: The following texts, available at the Campus Book Store, are required for this course:

On this syllabus, page numbers are given parenthetically, and the sources are labelled "BD" (British Dramatists) or "C" (Coursepack).

Position Papers: Over the course of the semester, each of you will write two position papers, which you will distribute to the other members of the class at the meeting before you are scheduled to lead discussion (see below). These papers, in fact, are specifically intended to prepare the class for your discussion session. This is your opportunity to explore a problem or idea of particular interest to you and to present your ideas in writing to the class as material for discussion.

Your goal is to take a position on the relationship between the reading at hand and the issue of morality under the specific cultural conditions that we are studying that week. By "position," I mean an interpretation, not an evaluation. We are all trained to leave movies or plays and discuss what we liked or disliked, to make evaluative judgments, but our goal in these papers (and in this course) is different. We will try to understand how different cultures conceive of the relationship between dramatic representation and morality, and how individual plays construct or lay claim to specific forms of morality. Try to take positions on how morality functions or is constructed rather than on whether a play is moral or immoral.

In order to begin your position papers, try asking yourself the following two questions:

  1. What are one or two of the major issues at stake in this culture's understanding of drama in particular, and literature in general, as a moral force?
  2. How does this play relate to those issues?

Your answer to the second question will produce your position. Next, pick a specific passage or two from the play and support your position through quotation and careful close reading. This process should produce a tight and well written 3 pp. paper. Please come to class with enough copies for each student in the class, including yourself, and two for me. Once the class as a whole has read such a paper, we will be ready for and excited about the discussion you will lead during our next meeting.

Discussion Sessions: The Wednesdays following the Mondays for which you have written position papers, you will be responsible for initiating and facilitating class discussion. These sessions will be led by you in groups of two or three. You should meet with the other discussion leader(s) at least once in order to sketch out the main questions you would like the class to address. These questions should be clearly formulated in your notes, and please feel free to provide any handouts that you think might facilitate discussion. If you leave any such handouts in my box the day before your discussion session, I will be glad to have them photocopied for you.

Furthermore, you should have a plan for how you would like the class to go about addressing your questions. Be sure to have specific passages from the text(s) to which you will direct our attention. Ideally, the class will raise issues that you may or may not have considered, and you thus may well be able to set your plan aside, but have one nonetheless!

All groups are encouraged but not required to meet with the professor during office hours or by appointment on the Tuesday preceding your discussion session. If you do wish to meet, please come prepared to discuss concrete ideas or issues.

In most cases, group members will share an evaluation and a grade, although in exceptional cases grades and evaluations may be assigned individually. I will evaluate you on the basis of how engaging, dynamic, and effective you are in initiating and facilitating class discussion. Feel free to try any methods that you think will be effective!


Introduction: Representation and Morality  


August 28


August 30

"Introduction," The London Stage 1660-1700 (handout)
"Playhouses and Their Audiences" (BD x-xvi)


September 4

No class (Labor Day)

September 6

Plato, Republic, Book X, Ion (C 1-9)
"An Order of the Lords and Commons Concerning Stage-Playes" (handout)
E-mail four preferences for position papers / application exercises

Restoration Comedy


September 11

Introduction, Comedy of Manners (BD 149-52)
Aphra Behn, The Rover
Angeline Goreau, from Reconstructing Aphra (C 10-19)

September 13

Behn, The Rover


September 18

Behn, The Rover, with video selections
From The Diary of Samuel Pepys (handout)
Two position papers due

September 20

Discussion Session: The Rover


September 25

William Congreve, The Way of the World (BD 307-47)
From Jeremy Collier, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage (BD 387-91)
Two position papers due

September 27

Discussion Session: The Way of the World

From Satire to Sentiment


October 2

Bernard Mandeville, from "The Fable of the Bees" (C 20-25)

October 4

Gay, The Beggar's Opera (BD 528-65) (Video)
Loughrey and Treadwell, Introduction to The Beggar's Opera (C 26-42)
Provisional thesis for mid-term paper due


October 9

Gay, The Beggar's Opera
Two position papers due

October 11

Discussion Session: The Beggar's Opera

October 13

Mid-term paper due (no class)


October 16

No class (Fall Break)

October 18

Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal (BD 831-76 ) (Video)
Oliver Goldsmith, "An Essay on the Theatre; or, A Comparison Between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy" (BD 751-53), from The Citizen of the World (C 43-46)


October 23

Sheridan, The School for Scandal
Two position papers due

October 25

Discussion Session: The School for Scandal

Romantic Drama and the Gothic


October 30

William Wordsworth, "Preface" to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads (241-72)

November 1

Ann Radcliffe, The Italian (Vol. I)


November 6

Radcliffe, The Italian (Vols. II-III)

November 8

Radcliffe, The Italian (Vols. II-III)


November 13

James Boaden, The Italian Monk (C 47-87)
Two position papers due

November 15

Discussion Session: The Italian Monk
Jeffrey Cox, Introduction from Seven Gothic Dramas 1789-1825 (on reserve)


November 20

Joanna Baillie, "Introductory Discourse" from A Series of Plays (C 88-125)
Two position papers due

November 22

Discussion Session: Baillie's "Introductory Discourse" and Boaden's The Italian Monk


November 27

Baillie, De Monfort: A Tragedy (C 126-81)
Catherine Burroughs, from Closet Stages (C 182-207)
Two position papers due

November 29

Discussion Session: De Monfort: A Tragedy
Provisional thesis for final paper due


December 4

Presentations of final paper proposals

December 6

Presentations of final paper proposals

December 13, 4:00, English Department: Final Paper due (10-12 pp.)

Daniel E. White