Spring 2020 - ENGL 420W D100

Topics in Eighteenth Century Literature (4)

Class Number: 1447

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 1:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    EDB 9651, Burnaby

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2020
    8:30 AM – 11:30 AM
    Location: TBA

  • Prerequisites:

    One of ENGL 310, 311, 313, 315, 320, 322, or 327. Recommended: ENGL 205. Reserved for English honours, major, joint major and minor students.



Addresses specific issues in 18th century literature in English. May be organized by author, genre, or critical approach. Students with credit for ENGL 420 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


Before Brexit: Forging the British Nation in the Eighteenth Century 

On September 18, 2014, Scottish residents went to the polls to determine the future of their nation. The question on the referendum ballot — “Should Scotland be an independent country?” – ignited a debate during which both sides drew on representations of the national past to fuel their arguments about how to go forward into the future. Ultimately, Scots on referendum day voted on the side of staying in the Union by a margin of 55% to 45%. Predictably, however, given the complex historical relationship between the two nations, the Scottish referendum also triggered a re-evaluation of English national identity which led to the referendum on Britain’s leaving the European Union or “Brexit.”           
   This course goes back to 1707 when Scotland and England were first united under one monarch and one parliament as the nation of Great Britain. We explore the way that literary culture both reflected and contributed to changing identity in both nations, as we examine some of the many diverse literary and cultural texts produced by eighteenth-century Scots and their English counterparts. We engage with, among other texts, the outraged speeches of Lord Belhaven, the lyric productions of Allan Ramsay, John Home’s ill-fated play, Douglas, the so-called “forgeries” of James “Ossian” Macpherson, the literary peregrinations of Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, Scottish ballads, as well songs by Robert Burns. As Scotland emerged as a site of unprecedented creativity and intellectual endeavor during this time period, we also pay attention to the understudied voices of women writers of the time period such as Elizabeth Wardlaw, Janet Little and Anne MacVicar Grant.

     This course invites students to rethink the canon of eighteenth-century English literature by examining texts from a peripheral region of Britain and by engaging with material that challenges our ideas about literature (eg. texts from popular culture, printed speeches, ballads, etc.).  At the same time, we will consider how echoes of the eighteenth-century discourse on national identity continues to haunt the present in the current attempts to achieve a Brexit settlement.


  • Essay #1 (including revision) (1800 words) 25%
  • In-class exam 25%
  • Essay #2 (including revision) 25%
  • Group seminar 15%
  • Attendance, participation and preparation (1800 words) 10%



SAMUEL JOHNSON and JAMES BOSWELL, The Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (ed. Peter Levi)

ISBN: 9780140432213

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html