BA English Language and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Satire and the Novel: English Literature of the Long Eighteenth Century

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL21181
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


The long eighteenth century in Britain has sometimes been termed the “age of satire”; it has also been regarded by literary critics as the period that witnessed the development of today’s most popular literary form, the novel.  In this course we explore the importance of, and connections between, these two influential forms in the period between 1660 and 1800.   We read satirical writing in a variety of genres—verse, prose, drama—as well as several different kinds of novels: romance, epistolary novel, comic epic in prose, fictional autobiography, feminist gothic thriller. Lectures will situate these works within their historical and cultural contexts and explore some of the many critical approaches that have been applied to the literature of this period.   Topics to be considered include representations of sexuality, sexual violence, and the body; eighteenth-century aesthetics; debates around masculinity, femininity, and gender roles; colonialism, slavery, and piracy; criminality and social class; the relations between popular and elite culture; relations between human and animal/nature and culture; representations of consciousness.


- to read some of the major literary works written between 1660 and 1800
- to encourage the use of a range of theoretical and critical approaches in the close reading of
poetry and prose
- to make students aware of different literary genres, and the main lines of development in poetry and fiction from this period.
-  to enable students to situate literary texts within their historical, political, and cultural contexts.
-  to examine the relation between literary discourse and ideology in the period.
-  to explore the relations between “high” and “low” cultural forms in eighteenth-century Britain.
- to foster an interest in eighteenth-century literature and culture.
- to develop skills of critical thought, speech, and writing in relation to the study of eighteenth-century literature.

Teaching and learning methods



Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course students should  be able to:

- display a detailed and convincing knowledge of a wide range of eighteenth-century texts, and offer close readings of them.

- display some knowledge of the relations between texts and their moments of their production and reception.

- discuss different varieties of satire and the novel, and explain how these modes influenced the development of the English literary tradition.

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students should be able to:

- summarize and engage with different critical and theoretical approaches to reading texts

- use the vocabulary of literary criticism to provide detailed analyses of course texts.

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- discuss and debate course topics and ideas

- develop a logical, coherent written argument based on the explication of evidence.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

- read and explicate difficult texts

- provide detailed rhetorical analysis (close reading)

- construct clear, well-substantiated, and thoughtful written arguments.

- present information to a group.

Employability skills

This course will help students develop advanced literacy and analytical skills. It will give them experience with public speaking, formal academic writing, formulating and explicating an argument, and using logic and evidence. Students will also develop their IT skills by using Blackboard and other computer systems.

Assessment methods

Seminar participation 10%
Exam 45%
Essay 45%

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on class presentation
  • Optional formative feedback on an essay plan (face-to-face, by appointment)
  • Written feedback on essay
  • Optional one-on-one meeting to discuss essay (by appointment)
  • Written feedback on final exam

Recommended reading

This is an indicative list only.  Please contact the Course Unit Director for specific details.

Eliza Haywood, Fantomina (text to be provided on Blackboard)

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels (Oxford World’s Classics edition)*

John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera and Polly (Oxford World’s Classics edition)*

Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (Oxford World’s Classics edition)*

Samuel Richardson, Pamela (Penguin Classics edition)—volume 1 only

Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews (Oxford World’s Classics edition)

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa,   The African (text to be provided on Blackboard)

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (Penguin Classics)*—volumes 1 and 2 only

Poetry by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Alexander Pope, and others (all provided on the Blackboard site for the course).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
James Metcalf Unit coordinator

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