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Proximity and Protest in the 18th-Century Letter and its Afterlives

Semester and Year SP 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1816
Section 001
Instructor Andrea Gadberry
Days T
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, EARLY


Same as COLIT-UA 866.


In this course we unearth the lost art of letter-writing and study epistolary form in interdisciplinary context, putting the epistolary novel, one of the most popular prose forms of the eighteenth century, in conversation with a range of primary documents (newspapers, pamphlets, travel letters) as well as works of philosophy and critical theoretical works. As we do so, we will ask how these letters let us unfold the problems of distance, intimacy, and exchange. Of particular interest to us will be how the epistolary form accounts for the scenes of itscomposition and represents the circumstances and space around the act of writing: In what ways does the epistolary novel (along with collectionsof letters of the period) i magine travel and contact with other cultures? What exactly is the “readerly” intimacy letters create, and how do these strategies portray and construct gender? How do these letters depict strangers, foreigners, and other “others,” and how do they address or confront the public? We will think about how the letter reinforces or resists norms. Our readings will take us across the European and Anglo-American traditions and, more locally, to the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we will consider the domestic spaces and objects that inform some exemplars of this literary form. Finally, we will conclude our inquiry with a look at the epistolary form’s 21st-century afterlife, and students can expect some creative projects along the way. Major texts include: Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1741), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774), Denis Diderot, The Nun (1780), Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (1782), Montesquieu, Persian Letters (1721), Lady Mary Montagu, Turkish Embassy Letters (1763), and Helen Maria Williams, Letters Written in France (1790).


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)