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ENGL476 A Topic in English Literature 1660-1800

Voices in Print: Books and Readers, 1660-1800

During the 140 years following the restoration of Charles II, Britain first became a reading nation. Literacy rates rose rapidly as print insinuated itself into most parts of people's lives and everyday life became a life of print culture. This paper surveys poetry, fiction and plays that explore what reading meant, how authors tried to control meaning, and how professional authorship became a legitimate, albeit poorly paid, career. All of these developments are most visible in relation to the ways that authors tell stories, but are frequently most evident when authors write about women or try to give women their own voices. The paper does not propose a feminist approach to the eighteenth century, but rather a narratological approach that finds texts by and about women most revealing of the challenges involved in telling stories in print. The rise of the novel was neither straightforward nor unproblematic, but readers were clearly captivated by the new voices and perspectives that print made possible.

The full reading list is given below. Because so much of a book's meaning is connected to its physical features, the class will meet in Special Collections in the Central Library and students will be expected to develop a research project in relation to a rare book in Otago's collection.

Paper title A Topic in English Literature 1660-1800
Paper code ENGL476
Subject English
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2023 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,206.91
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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72 points from ENGL 311-368, EURO 302

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


Teaching staff

Convenor and Lecturer: Associate Professor Shef Rogers

Paper Structure

Weekly two-hour seminars, with individual meetings with students as needed. As a seminar, the paper builds continuously on previous material and is not separable into units. Students are expected to attend all sessions. Assessments will include a 15-min presentation on a rare book the student is researching (30%), a 3000-word research essay (50%), and a one-hour in-class test analysing an unseen passage in terms of the topics studied in the paper (20%).

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.


No texts to purchase; all will be available through Blackboard as PDFs. Students may choose to print them if they wish at their own cost. The readings will include:

  • John Dryden, Translation, "Dido to Aeneas" from Ovid's Epistles(1680) plus book 4 of Virgil's Aeneis(1697); Sir Martin Mar-All (1668)
  • William Wycherley, The Country Wife (1675)
  • Alexander Pope, Essay on Criticism (1711)
  • Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (1722)
  • Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740)
  • Henry Fielding, Shamela (1741)
  • Samuel Johnson, selected periodical essays (1750s)
  • Frances Burney, Evelina (1778)
  • Jane Austen, Persuasion (1817)
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

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Not offered in 2023

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system