Satire to Sensibility: Literature 1660-1789

Module code: EN2050

Module co-ordinator: Dr Kate Loveman

In this module you will study a wide variety of authors crucial to the development of the cultural and political landscape of modern Britain, covering the literature of the Restoration and the subsequent 'ages' of neo-classicism and sensibility. We will look at the rise of satire and dramatic comedy, the development of the novel and, in poetry, the shift from formal precision to self-conscious expressionism. While discussing these formal developments, we will consider the influence of intellectual and socio-historical factors and also discuss recent critical approaches.

In exploring works from the 1660s and 1670s we will find instances of the clash between Puritan seriousness and the licentious scepticism of the newly restored court. In particular we will examine the comic plays of writers such as George Etherege and William Wycherley - including how they treated gender and sexuality - as examples of new developments in drama, following the reopening of the theatres in 1660.

We will explore the development of the novel and periodical - genres that drew on the energy and enterprise of the rising middling classes - through the writings of Daniel Defoe and Eliza Haywood, and the polite essays of The Spectator. Augustan writers such as Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope will offer you the opportunity to consider the tensions between the paradigms of wit and politeness. The attempt to resolve the internal contradictions of the period is further manifested in two interlocking trends: the 18th-century search for a view of humanity that transcends politics and social division (for example, Samuel Johnson) and a subsequent fascination with the individual and the authority of emotion (seen in the works of Thomas Gray and Frances Burney).

Topics covered

  • The poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
  • Daniel Defoe's novel Roxana
  • Alexander Pope's poetry, in particular 'Essay on Criticism', 'The Rape of the Lock' and 'Eloise to Abelard'




  • Textual analysis, 1,000 words (20%)
  • Exam, 3 hours (80%)