“The Coffeehouse Culture of Eighteenth-Century England”
Amy Wolf, Canisius College

My College
At my small Jesuit liberal arts college, I am the only eighteenth-century scholar in a department of about 15 people. This creates opportunities and freedom as well as responsibility. My classes might be the only classes that teach our students about the eighteenth century. My dissertation and current research concentrates on the history of the novel. And this is where the freedom and responsibility comes into play--teaching a class on prose and poetry can be an interesting way to stretch myself, to read texts I want to read but don’t read for my research, but is also a necessary stretch so that students are exposed to other texts besides the novels with which I am most comfortable and most familiar.

Course Context, Students
I taught this course for the first time this past fall as an upper-level Honors seminar for undergraduate English majors who wish to graduate with honors. They are required to take two such seminars and write a thesis. The class was limited to 18 students. They are usually our best juniors and seniors, but we do not have a required theory course, and most of the students had never taken an eighteenth-century literature course. Because only one seminar is offered a semester, students are usually taking it because they want to graduate with honors, not because they are particularly enthusiastic about the course. So I needed a hook, an angle to encourage them on this particular journey, to read Boswell’s biography of Johnson and Pamela and The Tatler and to care about their reading. Some readings and approaches were more successful than others.

Impetus for class
The impetus for this class was actually an article I read in my husband’s Economist magazine, of all places, connecting the 21st century Internet culture to the coffeehouses of the eighteenth century. I had been wanting to teach a class on eighteenth-century journals, but doing that through the lens of coffeehouse culture seemed an exciting approach. I named the course “The Coffeehouse Culture of Eighteenth-Century England” and I envisioned it as a course emphasizing conversation and dialogue, writers writing to each other and to a “public” that they worked on defining through their writing. As you know, coffeehouses in London were the centers for discussion, dialogue, and exchange of news and politics; they were the places where the public and private came together, and coffee was the favored drink at the center of intellectual debate. Studying eighteenth-century literature through the lens of coffeehouse culture would give students the tools to historicize their close reading, to root it in the material, cultural, and historical. I envisioned the idea of coffeehouse culture as a lens; we would not only read about the coffeehouses, in addition, we would read literary and non-literary texts with the coffeehouse as a lens, influence, context, theme, texts that debated some of the same themes. I wanted to put The Tatler and The Spectator at the center of the course as texts that were both fueled by coffeehouse conversation and influenced it. This version of an eighteenth-century literature class would emphasize the fast-paced dialogue of an increasingly commercial literary marketplace. When a novel like Pamela sold rapidly, Anti-Pamelas and Shamelas could appear within weeks to capitalize on its popularity. This timeliness is connected to the coffeehouse information chain—centralizing of information, gossip and news flowing from place to place. The coffeehouse would also help us understand the new questioning of the categories of high and low culture and the differences between the poet and the profiteer, art and diversion. Ideally, students could then participate more fully in the cultural debates of the eighteenth century. Plus, they already had an idea of modern coffeehouses, as a haven for poets and poseurs, intellectual discussion and dating, and as a wireless, twenty-first century public sphere. I could tap into their sense of today’s coffeehouse as a legacy of eighteenth-century England. In a way, I was giving them a tangible “way in” that they felt confident about. Many of the writers we would read, Addison and Steele, Boswell and Johnson, Swift, were concerned with good conversation. And students understand that. They usually haven’t analyzed it, but when pressed, they instinctively recognize what makes conversation work and what doesn’t. This too would be a way in.

My central text was key and I found the perfect one, Erin Mackie’s The Commerce of Everyday Life, an anthology and introduction to The Tatler and The Spectator. It’s a Bedford Cultural edition with thoughtful, sophisticated introductory materials to four chapters on public opinion, commerce, taste, and gender. Not only does it organize materials from the journals into these categories, it also includes cultural contexts with each chapter, everything from some of Swift’s London poems to Bernard Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees, to other cultural critiques on fops, newsmongers, beaus, jilts, and the coffeehouses themselves, journalistic accounts of the coffeehouse world. I also included my own additional copied readings of poetry and prose as well as Boswell’s London Journals and Life of Johnson, Pamela, Joseph Andrews, and a brief unit on Internet culture, which was mostly discussion-based but had a few texts.

I divided the course into five units, which you will see if you flip to the reading schedule. Some of the units were based on Mackie’s. The first three units began with selections from the Tatler and Spectator and then moved into other texts that were in dialogue with the journal selections and then finally to more “literary” selections—poetry, fiction, etc. The idea here was to end each unit with readings that challenge or enact or are in dialogue with the themes written about in The Tatler and The Spectator and talked about in the coffeehouses.

Unit One, “Urban Space/Public Space: Rambling, Tattling, and Spectating via the Coffeehouse” introduces the journals and their readership. We discussed rambling, tattling, and spectating as ways of observing and participating in urban life and as a methods of linking the private and public spheres. The unit ends with literary readings like the Earl of Rochester’s “A Ramble in St. James Park” and Jonathan Swift’s “Description of a City Shower” as test cases for students to apply their understanding of the concepts of rambling and spectating as privileged positions from which to view the city. This unit also introduces the coffeehouse through lecture, discussion, and readings that portray it both as an intellectual, egalitarian ideal and as a place of chaotic inter-class mingling and easily punctured pretensions, a place that excluded women for example. We discussed what is invested in the different versions of the coffeehouse presented by 18th-century writers.

Unit Two, “Taste, Culture, Conversation, and the Public/Private Split” centers on what’s at stake in the development of taste as a moral standard. This was one of the most successful units. Students try to formulate Addison and Steele’s idea of good taste and think about the masquerade as a counterpart of the coffeehouse in its promiscuous intermingling of classes. The unit ends with an emphasis on the role of conversation in the eighteenth-century coffeehouse culture. We read James Boswell’s Life of Johnson and Boswell’s own London Journal, discussing the relationship between the more public world of the former and the private world of the latter, and the privileging of wit and good conversation as heroic qualities. We also read part of Jonathan Swift’s “Hints toward an Essay on Conversation” and students were interested by how little had changed in what we consider to be good conversation and bad conversation. He talks about people that talk about themselves too much, explaining all of their diseases and illnesses or the difference between approaching conversation as a way to be informed vs. a way to display your talents. The most difficult thing to recapture is the 18th century sense of wit. I had hoped to use a film here, perhaps of a play, to try to convey to students the lost art of witty repartee, and the ways in which conversation was idealized as enlightening. (I would love any suggestions for film or taped plays, by the way). One thing we did talk about that was helpful—was what makes a truly fantastic class discussion. We tried to talk about those kinds of classes—rare classes—where everyone leaves feeling smarter, where dialogue helped reach new ideas. Films and movies about academia always show these scenes and in the 18th century that would not have been part of the classroom, but it might have been an ideal for the coffeehouse. Talking about what makes those classes work helped them understand what the coffee house conversation could do.

Unit Three, “Men, Women, Consumers, Fashion” begins with readings from the journals that discuss fashions from hoop-skirts to wigs and help formulate gender types ranging from the coquette and jilt to rakes and pretty fellows. We looked at advertisements that sometimes appeared alongside the journals’ critiques of fashion’s ephemerality, and we examined the rigid gender divisions fashion enforced but the ways masquerade, for example, could make those divisions more fluid. We also discussed the relationship between ideals of art and the moneymaking venture of writing—a problem with which many eighteenth-century writers struggled. Our ending literary reading paired Swift’s “The Lady’s Dressing Room” with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s response. I often teach this, but this was one of the best discussions—really helped by talking about Addison and Steele’s ideas about natural beauty and men’s participation in a delusional idea of female fashion. Many of The Tatlers and Spectators in this section were about femininity—what is wrong with jilts, what makes an ideal woman, what is wrong with a masculine woman, what makes a good marriage. Our conversation helped set up questions and ideas for reading Pamela and Joseph Andrews, our next unit’s texts. It was interesting for me to read those novels through this lens as well. Pamela’s conduct book roots seemed even more noticeable and Joseph Andrews struck me as having more to do with marriage and what makes a good marriage than it ever had before. {Especially central to the stories of the Boobies, Towwouses, Leonora and Horatio, the Wilsons, etc.}

Unit Four, “The Private Subject Made Public: Pamela, Class, and Satire in Dialogue” focuses on the dialogue between Richardson’s Pamela and Fielding’s Shamela and Joseph Andrews. Students should now be able to read with several eighteenth-century debates in mind—on gender, masquerades and other public diversions, the literary marketplace, the development of the middle class, the conflict between the private subject and the public world, notions about ideal femininity and masculinity. Fielding’s ideas about the importance of good nature and benevolence could be talked about in the context of how the journals talked about those traits. One problem with this unit was that the novels slowed us down a bit. It was useful and productive to talk about the novels as dealing with some of the same issues as the coffeehouse conversations, but we went far afield from the coffeehouse and it became difficult to touch base with it. If I did this again, I might have them read the novels over the course of a few weeks but wait until they had finished them to discuss them.

Unit Five, “The Coffeehouse Revisited: Blogging, Chatting, Anonymity, and the Internet” asks students to examine the ways in which the eighteenth century coffeehouse foreshadows contemporary internet culture. Our class discussion also tried to set up major differences. We had very interesting conversations about civility, the role of personas, user names, and anonymity. We talked about blogging as a kind of reworking of journals like The Spectator. Bloggers often position themselves as spectators and observers and are sometimes anonymous. We also discussed the ways that rational argument can be prevented by being disembodied—how the invisibility we feel online can absolve us of responsibility, and the problems with that. This unit had a few readings, but was mostly about class conversation. All the students had opinions about what can go wrong with Internet discourse, but now they had Swift and Habermas and Addison and Steele’s ideas about conversation to help frame our discussion. Because a majority of the students were English education majors I also thought they might be interested in Richard Anthone and Steve Williams Internet discussion project for middle schoolers called The Philosophical Hotel. They attempted to revive the dialogue traditions of 18th century correspondence networks and the idea of public sphere conversation to teach philosophy. The middle schoolers—at several European schools—discussed philosophy in the classroom and presented ideas in an online exchange, then further refined their ideas through conversation and re-posted. Students were interested in how successful the method was and Williams and Anthone connected their project explicitly to the eighteenth-century in the article we read.

I hand out homework assignments for every class. All of the students are required to read and think about them; they will guide our discussion for the next class period. Over the course of the semester each student needs to hand in SIX written, roughly two page responses to six different homework questions. This is a method I use in all of my literature classes; because the due dates are flexible, what results is that on any given class, usually 1-2 students have developed a written, (hopefully) thoughtful response to the questions and we always have a starting point for discussion, AND my grading is staggered too. I have included some of my homework questions at the end of the syllabus below.

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, Penguin edition
and Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763, Yale University Press
Samuel Richardson, Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, Oxford World’s Classics
Erin MacKie, editor, The Commerce of Everyday Life, Bedford
Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews and Shamela, Penguin edition
various essays, poetry, and journal articles

The literature of 18th-century England was a blend of elegant essays and savage satire, of propriety and scandal, morality and bawdiness. The literary world was one of fast-paced public dialogue. Coffeehouses in London were the centers for this discussion, dialogue, and exchange of news and politics; they were the places where the public and private came together, and coffee was the favored drink at the center of intellectual debate. We will read about the coffeehouse culture of the long eighteenth century and also read some of the literature, journals, and newspapers which were in dialogue with each other. Some of the themes we will address are the importance of wit and conversation, the urban landscape, taste and culture, anonymity and pseudonyms, letter-writing, rambling, tattling, and spectating as metaphors, and the relationship between the public and private spheres. The final week of the course will jump ahead to the coffeehouse of the twentieth century: the internet, and discuss the online world’s reworking of eighteenth-century ideas of the public and private.

1. Short Response Homeworks: I will assign homework questions for almost every class which require you to respond to and analyze the reading. Everyone is required to read and think about these homework questions. But you will choose only any SIX of these homework questions to respond to in writing over the course of the semester. These are somewhat informal and definitely short—no more than 1-2 pages—and must be typed. The due dates are flexible so that on any given class day, a handful of students will have written on the homework question. Homeworks can not be handed in late; I will only accept them in class on the day they are due or in my office/mailbox before class. You may do one extra homework and I will drop the lowest grade.
2. Analysis Essays: You will write two short analysis essays, 4-5 pages, typed, double-spaced. These essays are more formal than the response papers, with an introduction, conclusion and thesis statement. You might develop ideas initiated by the short response papers or during class discussion, or go in new directions.
3. Final Seminar Paper: Instead of a final examination, you will write a longer (around 8-12 pages, typed, double-spaced) seminar paper which reflects back on an aspect of the course. This is a chance for individual, intellectual exploration of any issue related to coffeehouse culture that intrigues you. You might choose to do research or read other texts for this essay but you are not required to do so. Possible approaches might be literary analyses of eighteenth-century texts, exploration of cultural or historical issues, an update of The Spectator or The Tatler, or even an examination of the ways in which technology or internet culture are a kind of reworking of eighteenth-century conceptions of public space. This essay is due during finals week.
4. Short In-Class Writing Assignments: We will do occasional group work, creative writing, analysis, and brainstorming during class to help us think in new ways about the texts we read. This is low-stakes writing, usually receiving a check mark, but still important and should not be missed. If you are absent during in-class writing you can hand it in late but for reduced credit.
5. Class Participation: Because this is a small discussion class at the honors level, it requires serious reading and individual engagement with the texts. Participation is essential. It makes the class work. You must keep up with the reading and thinking. I also expect everyone to help create a supportive environment in which all students are able to honestly express opinions on the texts and on classmates’ ideas.
6. Class Attendance: Class attendance is mandatory. You are allowed four absences before your grade is penalized; you do not need to explain your absences to me, but I would suggest saving these for illness or emergencies. For every other absence I will subtract half a letter grade from your final grade. When you miss class for any reason, make sure you have done the reading and writing assignments and are prepared for the next class.

LATE PAPERS: I will accept late papers but your point total will be docked EACH DAY that the paper is late. Extensions may sometimes be granted, but only if you ask me in advance.

Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated. Do not buy papers. Do not borrow papers. Do not borrow chunks of papers. Do not cut and paste materials from the Internet. Do not quote without citing your sources. Do not turn in a paper which you wrote for another class. Plagiarists will receive an F for the course.

Your grade will be based on your fulfillment of the class requirements as follows:

6 Short Response Homeworks: 30% (5% each)
2 Analysis Essays: 30% (15% each)
Final Seminar Paper: 30%
In-Class Writing, Group Work, Class Participation: 10%

Reading Schedule

Urban Space/Public Space: Rambling, Tattling, and Spectating via the Coffeehouse
Monday, August 30 Introduction to Class
Wednesday, September 1 (packet) “The Internet in a cup”
“ Introduction: Cultural and Historical Background,” pg. 1-32 in The Commerce of Everyday Life
Monday, September 6 Labor Day, NO CLASSES
Wednesday, September 8 The Commerce of Everyday Life, pg. 41-61, pg. 76-82, and pg. 88-94:
Intro to the section, pg. 41-46
“ Dedication,” pg. 47-49
Tatler no. 1 on coffeehouses, pg. 49-54
Tatler no. 144 on Isaac Bickerstaff, pg. 55-58
Tatler no. 155 on news addiction, pg. 58-61
Tatler no. 271, the last Tatler, pg. 76-78
Spectator no. 1 introducing Mr. Spectator, pg. 79-82
Spectator no.10, the popularity of the papers, pg. 88-91
Spectator no. 49 on Coffeehouse society, pg. 91-94
Monday, September 13 The Commerce of Everyday Life, pg. 97-102, pg. 110-112, and pg. 129-148:
Spectator no. 262 on non-newspaper status, pg. 97-100
Spectator no. 367 on benefits of the paper, pg. 100-102
Spectator no. 568 on political misreading, pg.110-112
selection from the Female Tatler, pg. 129-135
Richard Flecknoe, “Character of a Common Newsmonger,” pg. 135-136
“ The Character of a Coffeehouse,” pg. 137-143
Ward’s “Visit to a Coffee-House,” pg. 144-148
Wednesday, September 15 (packet) John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, “A Ramble in St. James’s Park,” Jonathan Swift, “Description of a City Shower” and “Description of the Morning”

Taste, Culture, Conversation, and the Public/Private Split
Monday, September 20 (packet) Selections about masquerade
The Commerce of Everyday Life, pg. 319-334 & pg. 342-348:
Intro to the section, pg. 319-324
Tatler no. 12 on public diversions, pg. 324-327
Tatler no. 62 on correct taste, pg. 327-329
Tatler no. 99 on ladder-dancers, pg. 329-330
Tatler no. 108 on contortionist show, pg. 330-334
Tatler no. 225 on polite conversation, pg. 342-344
Spectator no.8 on manners & masquerade, pg. 344-348

Wednesday, September 22 (packet) excerpt from Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas
The Commerce of Everyday Life, pg. 356-365, pg. 379-386, pg. 410-418, and pg. 432-436
Spectator no. 58 on true & false wit, pg. 356-360
Spectator no. 63 on true & false wit, pg. 360-365
Spectator no. 291 on criticism, pg. 379-382
Spectator no. 409 on good taste, pg. 383-386
Jonathan Swift, “Hints toward…,” pg. 410-418
“On Poets,” from The Female Tatler, pg. 432-436
Monday, September 27 James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, part I, pg. 35-62 and part III, pg. 93-122
Wednesday, September 29 Must have TWO homeworks by this date
James Boswell, Boswell’s London Journal, pg. 39-50 and 83-162
Monday, October 4 Boswell’s London Journal, pg. 255-333
Wednesday, October 6 Analysis Paper #1 due in class
The Life of Samuel Johnson, pg. 125-154 and pg. 283-309
Monday, October 11 Fall Holiday, NO CLASSES

Men, Women, Consumers, and Fashion
Wednesday, October 13 (packet) William Hogarth, “Rake’s Progress” and “Harlot’s Progress”
The Commerce of Everyday Life, pg. 457-478, pg. 482-488, and the letter on pg. 166:
Intro to the section, pg. 457-462
Tatler no. 24 on pretty fellows, pg. 462-466
Tatler no. 26, letter from pretty fellow, pg. 467-469
Tatler no. 25 on dueling, pg. 469-471
Tatler no. 27, rake defined, pg. 471-473
Tatler no. 107 on coquettes, pg. 474-478
Tatler no. 116 on hoop-skirts, pg. 482-485
Tatler no. 151 on woman & dress, pg. 486-488
Guardian excerpt, just the letter on pg. 166
Monday, October 18 The Commerce of Everyday Life, pg. 498-508, pg. 513-518, pg. 525-528, pg. 535-539, pg. 561-567, and pg. 581-583:
Spectator no. 41 on modern “picts,” pg. 498-501
Spectator no. 66 on female education, pg. 502-504
Spectator no. 73 on female “idols,” pg. 505-508
Spectator no. 119, country vs. city, pg. 513-515
Spectator no. 128 on marriage, pg. 515-518
Spectator no. 187 on female jilts, pg. 525-528
Spectator no. 302, the good woman, pg. 535-539
Female Tatler on masculine women, pg. 561-567
J. Swift “Beautiful Young Nymph,” pg. 581-583

Wednesday, October 20 (packet) Jonathan Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room” and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, “The Reasons that induced Dr. Swift…”; Alexander Pope, “Impromptu” and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, “The Answer (To Pope’s Impromptu)”
Start reading Samuel Richardson, Pamela, pg. 3-top of 27
The Private Subject Made Public: Pamela, Class, and Satire in Dialogue

Monday, October 25 Samuel Richardson, Pamela, pg. 27-middle of 98
Wednesday, October 27 Pamela, pg. 98-169
Monday, November 1 Must have FOUR homeworks by this date
Pamela, pg. 170-middle of 249
Wednesday, November 3 Pamela, pg. 249-middle of 325
Monday, November 8 Pamela, pg. 325-bottom of 415
Wednesday, November 10 Analysis Paper #2 due in class
Pamela, pg. 415-as close to end as possible, at least pg. 476
Monday, November 15 Finish Pamela
Henry Fielding, Shamela, pg. 1-43
Wednesday, November 17 Henry Fielding, Joseph Andrews, pg. 61-129
Monday, November 22 Joseph Andrews, pg. 130-199
Wednesday, November 24 Thanksgiving, NO CLASSES
Monday, November 29 Joseph Andrews, pg. 200-middle of 272
Wednesday, December 1 Joseph Andrews, pg. 272-end
The Coffeehouse Revisited: Blogging, Chatting, Anonymity, and the Internet

Monday, December 6 Jurgen Habermas, excerpts from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
Mark Poster, “The Net as Public Sphere?”
C. John Sommerville, “Surfing the Coffeehouse”
Wednesday, December 8 Must have SIX homeworks by this date
James Melton, excerpt from The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe
Richard Anthone and Steve Williams, “From the Republic of Letters to the Empire of Email”

Selected Homework Questions for
“ The Coffeehouse Culture of Eighteenth-Century England”
Amy Wolf, Canisius College

Unit One: “Urban Space/Public Space: Rambling, Tattling, and Spectating via the Coffeehouse”

Homework #1: Due Monday, September 6

Choose one:
1. The Tatler often begins essays by noting the address of a particular London coffeehouse. Now that you’ve read a bit about coffeehouses, what do you think is the significance of associating The Tatler with the coffeehouse? Why might The Tatler want to do this? What sort of authority does this give to the essay? [You might think about modern newspaper articles that begin with the city from which the reporter is reporting (“Baghdad” or “Kabul” for example.) Is this the same thing or different?]

2. How are the ideas of “tattling” and “spectating” being used by The Tatler and The Spectator respectively? Do you think there is a difference between the two journals that correlates to the different titles? In other words, is The Tatler’s tattling different from The Spectator’s goal of spectating?

Homework #2: Due Monday, September 13

What are some of the techniques and strategies that The Spectator uses to promote certain moral and ethical principles to its audience? (You might also consider exactly what those principles are). How might The Spectator’s differences from other papers (and the way Addison and Steele keep drawing attention to those differences) be involved in this work of accomplishing certain moral goals?

Homework #3, Swift’s Poetry: Due Wednesday, September 15

The two Jonathan Swift poems “A Description of a City Shower” and “A Description of the Morning” purport to be “descriptions” but certainly move outside of the tradition of the descriptive nature poem. Pick one of the poems and argue about its meaning beyond just describing. You MIGHT consider: What might be Swift’s point in the poem? What is he saying about city showers or city mornings? What might he be trying to say or show about London or about poetry? How might the poem be self-consciously trying to be different from a traditional descriptive poem? To what purpose?

Unit Two: “Taste, Culture, Conversation, and the Public/Private Split”

Homework #4: Due Monday, September 20

1. You might consider how Terry Castle’s article on masquerade sheds light on or connects to The Tatler’s and The Spectator’s attitudes towards masquerade and other public diversions. Are her theories supported by the journals? You might quote from Castle, and reflect on her ideas using one of the journals as an example. You might also discuss The Tatler’s mission of exposing “false arts” and pulling off disguises in the context of Castle’s explanation of masquerade. (Look at the dedication to The Tatler, pg. 47). Or you might think about Bickerstaff and Mr. Spectator as “masks” and explore how Castle’s ideas could be used to rethink the journals. (Would Addison and Steele think they are using masks? How do they feel about masks and masquerading?)
2. If “scandal” was the key word in defining the role of the journals against that of other journals, “taste” is the key word in describing what the journals are trying to shape and formulate. Using examples from the Tatlers and Spectators you’ve read on various public diversions in the eighteenth century—everything from masquerades to ladder-dancers—, try to formulate what exactly good taste is according to Addison and Steele. You might consider the idea of “diversions” in general and what the relationship is between being diverted and morality, and what specific diversions say about the people being diverted.

Homework #5: Due Wednesday, September 22

Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas, published in 1759, is a long, prose fiction which tells the story of a prince who leaves the Happy Valley, the utopian society where he was born, to explore the outside world and learn about what choice of life makes people happy. His companion on the journey is Imlac, a poet and philosopher. The excerpt you are reading is Imlac’s—and Samuel Johnson’s—explanation of the role of the poet/writer/artist in society. He is setting up criteria for what makes good art and why it matters.
Compare Johnson’s ideas to The Spectator/The Tatler’s ideas about good taste, good art, good use of language, or worthwhile public diversions. Do Addison and Steele have similar or different ideas than Johnson? OR compare the journals’ own function to Johnson’s explanation of the poet’s function. Do The Spectator and The Tatler as pieces of writing share the goals and tasks of the poet according to Johnson? If so, how? If not, where do they differ and why? Are the journals a kind of literature or do they merely discuss good literature?

Homework #6: Due Monday, September 27

James Boswell’s biography of Samuel Johnson is one of the most famous English biographies of any century, and definitely an important example of the genre in the eighteenth century. Samuel Johnson was one of the great literary figures of his age; the author of poetry, prose, and criticism and a highly influential dictionary; he was a kind of literary celebrity. Literary critics today read it for a variety of reasons, preeminent of which is its status as a product of eighteenth-century cultural values. What Boswell valued in Johnson gives us insight into what the eighteenth century valued in general.

Apply some of the criteria of taste and morality that The Tatler and The Spectator set up to The Life of Samuel Johnson. For example, you might consider how the journals’ ideas about what makes good wit or good conversation apply or not apply to the biography? You might consider whether Addison and Steele would approve of Boswell’s version of Johnson, or what aspects of Johnson’s life or Boswell’s writing style the readers of the eighteenth-century journals might be expected to admire or criticize.

Unit Three: “Men, Women, Consumers, and Fashion”

Homework #10: Due in class Monday, October 18

Swift’s poem “A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed” begins with the pastoral image of a beautiful woman implied by the title. But as he did in his poems “Description of a City Shower” and “Description of the Morning”, he defies the conventional, traditional expectations of his subject matter, especially by making the “nymph” a prostitute and then treating her with harsh irony. Compare Addison’s and Steele’s critique of women and fashion to Swift’s. Are they concerned with exposing or changing similar or different things about women? Do they start with different ideas of ideal femininity? Do they have different or similar ideas about what is “natural” and what is artificial? Do they have similar or different complaints about female fashion? Would Addison and Steele like Swift’s poem? Or choose other terms on which to compare the journals to Swift’s poem. You also might think about how what Swift does in this poem is similar to what he did in the earlier poems we’ve read by him.

Homework #11: Swift vs. Montague, Pope vs. Finch

1. Compare and contrast the Pope/Finch debate to the Swift/Montagu debate. You might consider: How are the battles different? How are the terms different? How are Montagu’s and Finch’s feminisms different? How are the tensions/terms/basics of their arguments similar or different? How are the poetic personas of the different poets involved different/similar?

2. Or continue our comparison of the poetry to Addison and Steele’s Tatler and Spectator. Compare Addison’s and Steele’s critique of women and fashion to Swift’s. Are they concerned with exposing or changing similar or different things about women? Do they start with different ideas of ideal femininity? Do they have different or similar ideas about what is “natural” and what is artificial? Do they have similar or different complaints about female fashion? You might specifically look at The Spectator on “modern picts” or the letter from the husband who thinks he has married a different woman when she is without her makeup. Would Addison and Steele agree with or disagree with Montague’s critique of Swift? Would she agree with their ideas on fashion and artificiality? On what terms is she objecting to Swift’s poem?

Unit Four: “The Private Subject Made Public: Pamela, Class, and Satire in Dialogue”

Homework #12, Pamela, Due in Class Monday, October 25

You might discuss how Richardson participates in the conversation that Addison and Steele, Swift, Finch, and others are having about female virtue, artificiality vs. naturalness, taste and gender, and ideal femininity.

Homework #18, Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews: Due in Class, Wednesday, November 17

Fielding begins Joseph Andrews with the idea that chastity is “as becoming in one Part of the human Species, as in the other” (62). Joseph is a counterpart to Pamela. But instead of being a “sham” Pamela (like Shamela), he is instead different from Richardson’s heroine in being male. The concept of Fielding’s book raises several issues: What effect does making the chaste character male have? How is the concept of “virtue” limited by referring only to virginity/chastity? What is he satirizing about Pamela OR about society by creating the character of Joseph Andrews? These will be major questions for us to focus on. If you choose to write on this homework question, begin reflecting on one or more of these questions.

Unit Five: “The Coffeehouse Revisited: Blogging, Chatting, Anonymity, and the Internet”

Homework #22, Readings on Internet & Coffeehouse Culture, Due Monday, December 6

Use Habermas’ explanation of what the public sphere is to argue how the Internet can be considered a public sphere like the eighteenth-century coffeehouse OR how it is different from eighteenth-century ideas of the public sphere. You might quote from Poster or Sommerville to support your opinion, but it is absolutely required that you quote from Habermas.

Homework #23, Internet & Coffeehouse Culture, Due Wednesday, December 8

You might apply some of Melton’s ideas to something we have read. For example, how might his ideas about literacy, the public sphere, or the epistolary novel shed light on Pamela or Joseph Andrews or the importance of the biography of Samuel Johnson? (or anything else we’ve read).

Or you might connect Melton to the Anthone and Williams article. How are some of the aspects of eighteenth-century culture according to Melton connected to Internet projects like the one Anthone and Williams describe?

Or you might use quotations from Melton’s arguments to explain how the twenty-first century public sphere of the Internet is like or unlike the eighteenth-century public sphere. You might think about chat rooms, blogging, web news sites, email, and see how they compare to some of the eighteenth-century phenomena Melton discusses.