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    The eighteenth century in Britain is a hard period to characterise.  Europe was still living with the aftershocks of the renaissance and reformation, the cultural transformations that ended the very different medieval world, and was on the verge of the industrial revolution, when most of Europe became recognisably modern.  Negotiating this boundary in their lives and writings are the two contrasting figures of the English literary titan and powerful representative of the tradition, Samuel Johnson, and his biographer and much younger friend, the proto-romantic Scot, James Boswell.  The London they inhabited was Europe’s greatest metropolis, and alive with booksellers and coffee shops, catering for an unprecedented demand for knowledge, literature, and news.  These few volumes and two writers will introduce students to fascinating and important works across a range of genres, published 1735-91, including poetry, criticism, lexicography, biography, travel, fiction, journalism, letters, political writing, periodical essays, and private journals.


    These texts include some works of kinds that are traditionally regarded as “literary,” but also a great deal of material of kinds that are not usually studied.  These texts are related in terms of the biographies of (and by) their two authors.  But they provide a basis for us to consider ideas about genre, canonicity, reception, literary reputation, book history.

    About this paper

    Paper title A Topic in English Literature 1660-1800
    Subject English
    EFTS 0.1667
    Points 20 points
    Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $1,240.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    72 300-level ENGL points

    A student will usually have completed a BA in English prior to enrolling in ENGL 476


    Teaching staff

    Convener and Lecturer: Assoc. Prof Paul Tankard

    Paper Structure

    Weekly two-hour seminar.  Students are expected to attend all sessions.  Assessments will include a series of seminar preparation /follow-up tasks, a 15-min presentation on set topic, a 3000-word research essay, and a short test or exam with passages for identification and contextual discussion.

    Teaching Arrangements

    Special Collections is open 9-5 Mon-Fri, so students should anticipate that a reasonable amount of their research will be conducted during those hours in order to have access to the materials required.


    Johnson’s Major Works (Oxford Worlds Classics, ed. Greene) will be supplied.  Some complete and authoritative edition of Boswell’s Life of Johnson (e.g., Oxford Worlds Classics, or Penguin Classics).

    Graduate Attributes Emphasised
    Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation.
    View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
    Learning Outcomes

    Students who successfully complete this paper will:

    • Understand the evolution of narrative techniques across a variety of genres
    • Develop experience with rare books and the meanings of physical qualities of texts as well as textual meanings
    • Enhance and demonstrate advanced research skills
    • Gain appreciation of the history of English literature in a key period of transition
    • Reflect on aspects of gender in narrative techniques and how these relate to social attitudes toward gender differences over time


    Semester 1

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system


    Stream Days Times Weeks
    A1 Tuesday 10:00-11:50 9-13, 15-22
    Friday 10:00-10:50 9-12, 15-22
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