ENGL729C - Seminar In Eighteenth-Century Literature: Cosmopolitanism In Theory And Practice.

Cosmopolitanism has emerged as a key topic in a range of fields in literary study for its capacity to point beyond nationalism, to rethink histories of orientalism, and to appreciate the global ambitions, concerns, and vexations of writers and other cultural actors.  An ancient concept, cosmopolitanism re-emerged in eighteenth-century Britain in a distinctly modern form inspired by global networks of trade and emergent narrative of progress and refinement.  Eighteenth-century cosmopolitanism thus emerged at the crossroads of new forms of urban sophistication and revived notions of world citizenship. The movement from country to city became a prominent theme in much of the period’s writing. Drama in particular constantly juxtaposes provincial visitors with urban sophisticates, and the theater itself defined the cosmopolitan center of metropolitan life.  Being a “citizen of the world,” however, meant not just the ability to understand the ways of the city, but to be at home in a world with rapidly expanding horizons, as the British traveled, traded, colonized, consumed, and explored globally. This course has two components: one that explores recent contestations over cosmopolitan theory and practice, and another that explores the eighteenth-century roots of contemporary cosmopolitanism through literature and culture.  We will thus explore cosmopolitanism through three kinds of texts: literary works from the eighteenth century (drama, fiction, periodicals, travel narrative); philosophy (in particular but not limited to the Scottish Enlightenment); and recent works of criticism and theory that engage cosmopolitan possibilities in the Enlightenment and today.  Primary texts may include works by William Wycherley, Aphra Behn, George Etherege, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Eliza Haywood, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, James Boswell, George Cumberland, Hannah Cowley, Adam Smith, Adam Ferguson, Robert Hume, Sophia Lee, Frances Burney.  We will consider the French and Ottoman influences on British formulations of the cosmopolitan, as well as the different meanings that world citizenship held for men and for women.  Assignments will include one presentation, one research paper, weekly blog posts, and possibly other short writing assignments as well.