ENGL729B - Seminar in Eighteenth-Century Literature: Theater, Feelings, and Philosophy

How do cultivated passions create genuine feelings? This course will explore the range of emotions produced and explored by London theater, 1660-1800, by looking at plays, drama criticism, theories of acting, performer biographies, antitheatrical diatribes, accounts of the passions, and philosophical texts that explore theater and theatricality. Sentimentalism became central to drama in the early eighteenth century, and we will think about how plays solicit audience members to think and feel beyond boundaries of gender, personal identity, and nation.  But we will also consider the theatrical attractions of violence, sadism, humiliation, and cruelty; how and when sentimentalism fails; controversies over spectacle; tensions between passion and control;  and the cultivation of detachment. Readings will include plays by Behn, Wycherley, Etherege, Shadwell, Cibber, Lillo, Steele, Addison, Centlivre, Sheridan, Cowley. Philosophical and journalistic readings will include Bernard Mandeville, Thomas Hobbes, Shaftesbury, Eliza Haywood, Adam Smith, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Frances Hutcheson, Jeremy Collier, and others, with supplementary selections from contemporary criticism and theory of performance, affect , celebrity, fashion,  and the history of emotions.