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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: Feeling Tragic: Tragedy and Eighteenth-Century Histories of Emotion (ENLI10382)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWhy do we enjoy tragedy? What is pleasurable about watching suffering? Why are pity and fear good kinds of emotions to have? How should we relate to tragic heroes and punish villains? How should we feel in the theatre and what kinds of feelings do we take home?
These are questions that plagued seventeenth- and eighteenth-century thinkers. The Restoration saw the reopening of the theatres and the revitalisation of the drama in England. The late seventeenth century also saw the beginnings of literary criticism as a formal discipline while the eighteenth century ushered in what we now call aesthetic philosophy. Early criticism was anxiously concerned to assess the utility of literature's provocation of emotion and the culture at large wondered about the place of the passions in human life. Literature and philosophy alike looked to tragedy to provide a model for how we ought to be and act, and even more importantly, how we ought to feel. We can observe, simultaneously, an upsurge of concern for audience emotion, a complete reordering of tragedy as a genre and a widespread interest in sympathetic feeling. But many modern critics have insisted that tragedy dies an ignominious, bourgeois death in this period, subsequently flailing for upwards of a century in the crude histrionics of melodrama. Students on this this course will explore the early days of that supposedly bad, boring, bourgeois tragedy; investigate why it stayed on the stage and why eighteenth-century audiences liked it; examine what they thought it taught them; and discuss what it said about the structures of emotion that shaped eighteenth-century culture and made their way into modern definitions of the self.
Course description This course examines new modes of tragedy and the critical discussions they provoked in the Restoration and eighteenth century. Students will assess the way emotional responses to tragedy made their way into larger critical and philosophical debates about emotion and cognition in the period. Reading will range from the 'she-tragedies' of the early eighteenth century, through such key critical assessments of tragedy as Dennis's and Hume's, to Edmund Burke's mid-century aesthetics and the tragic sublime. Classes will investigate eighteenth-century ideas about audience response, examining theories of emotional expression both on and off the stage.
Using the analytic training they have gained in previous courses, students will practise and develop their skills in independent critical reading of literary and theoretical texts. This course will allow them to examine primary texts that include seventeenth- and eighteenth-century plays, literary criticism and philosophy; secondary critical and historical materials; and some selected archival material at the National Library.
Students will prepare for weekly seminar discussions by meeting in advance in 'autonomous learning groups.' They will also prepare in this group a formal presentation on an aspect of eighteenth-century theatre history. Each group will choose an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century playbill for a tragedy from the National Library's collection and select from it an element of performance or theatre history to research and present. The goals of the assignment are twofold: it will ensure that the students have some manageable experience of archival research and that they engage with some element of theatre as performance. Audience emotion is an important object of study in this course, and this assignment will allow the students to discuss the ways in which the pragmatic contexts of eighteenth-century tragedy elicited emotion. The assignment will be assessed along with regular, informed participation in the seminar as a key part of each student's overall performance in the course.
In addition to their work in the seminars and on their presentation, students will be assessed by two essays of 2,500 and 3,000 words respectively, the first due in Week 9 and the second during the exam period.
Students will receive formal written feedback on each piece of assessed work, and will have the opportunity to expand upon that feedback in optional face-to-face discussions with the course organiser.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) OR English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) AND Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016)) AND ( Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023) OR English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) AND Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Essential course texts.
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. independently analyse and respond critically to a variety of eighteenth-century and contemporary literary material and works of criticism;
  2. construct clear, coherent arguments about the relationships among eighteenth-century literary texts and their wider contemporary culture;
  3. analyse eighteenth-century drama using recognised literary critical methodologies drawn from performance analysis, performance history and audience response theory;
  4. integrate basic archival research into these arguments;
  5. present these arguments and analyses in both written and oral formats.
Reading List
Primary Texts
The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Drama, Concise Ed., ed. J. Douglas Canfield (Broadview, 2003)

Secondary Reading: Theatre
Backscheider, P. Spectacular Politics: Theatrical Power and Mass Culture in Early Modern England (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1993)
Baer, M. Theatre and Disorder in Late Georgian London (Clarendon, 1992)
A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London, 1660-1800, ed. Highfill et al. (Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1984)
Brown, L. Ends of Empire: Women and Ideology in Early Eighteenth-Century English Literature (Cornell Univ. Press, 1993)
Brown, L. English Dramatic Form, 1660-1760 (Yale Univ. Press, 1981)
The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre, 1730-1830, ed. O'Quinn and Moody (Cambridge, 2007)
The Cambridge Companion to English Restoration Theatre, ed. Fisk (Cambridge, 2000)
Ellison, Cato's Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999)
Freeman, L. Character's Theater: Genre and Identity on the Eighteenth-Century English Stage (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), Ch. 3: 'Tragedy's Tragic Flaw'
Gray, Theatrical Criticism in London to 1795 (Columbia Univ. Press, 1931)
A History of Scottish Theatre, ed. Findlay (Polygon, 1998)
Howe, E. The First English Actresses: Women and Drama 1660-1700 (Cambridge, 1992)
Hughes, D. English Drama, 1660-1700 (Clarendon, 1996)
Hume, R. The London Theatre World, 1660-1800 (Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1980)
The London Stage 1660-1800: A Calendar of Plays, Entertainments and Afterpieces, 11 Vols. (Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1960-68)
Marsden, J. Fatal Desire: Women, Sexuality and the English Stage, 1660-1720 (Cornell Univ. Press, 2006)
Nussbaum, F. Rival Queens: Actresses, Performance and the Eighteenth-Century British Theatre (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2010)
O'Quinn, 'Mercantile Deformities' Theatre Journal 54.3 (2002): 389-410
O'Quinn, D. Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London, 1770-1800 (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2005)
Orr, B. Empire on the English Stage, 1660-1714 (Cambridge, 2001)
Owen, S. Restoration Theatre in Crisis (Clarendon, 1996)
The Oxford Handbook of the Georgian Theatre, 1737-1832, ed. Swindells and Taylor (Oxford, 2014)
Powell, J. Restoration Theatre Production (Routledge, 1984)
A Register of English Theatrical Documents, 1660-1737, ed. Milhous and Hume (Southern Illinois Univ. Press, 1991)
Ritchie, F. Women and Shakespeare in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 2014),
Roach, J. The Player's Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (Univ. of Delaware Press, 1985)
Rosenfeld, S. Strolling Players and Drama in the Provinces, 1660-1765 (Cambridge, 1939)
Rosenthal, L. 'Owning Oroonoko' Renaissance Drama 23 (1992): 25-58.
Rothstein, E. Restoration Tragedy: Form and the Process of Change (Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1967)
Russell, G. Women, Sociability and Theatre in Georgian London (Cambridge, 2007)
Staves, S. Players' Scepters: Fictions of Authority in the Restoration Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1979)
Straub, K. Sexual Suspects: Eighteenth-Century Players and Sexual Ideology (Princeton Univ. Press, 1992)

Secondary Reading: Tragedy and Emotion
Belfiore, E. Tragic Pleasures: Aristotle on Plot and Emotion (Princeton Univ. Press, 1992)
Gellrich, M. Tragedy and Theory: The Problem of Conflict Since Aristotle (Princeton Univ. Press, 1988)
Halliwell, S. Between Ecstasy and Truth: Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus (Oxford, 2012), Ch. 5: 'Aristotle and the Experience of Tragic Emotion'
Heller, J. 'The Bias Against Spectacle in Tragedy: The History of an Idea.' The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 23 (1982): 239-55.
Macpherson, S. Harm's Way: Tragic Responsibility and the Novel Form (Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2010)
Nussbaum, M. Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (Cambridge, 2001), Part II: 'Compassion: Tragic Predicaments'
Rorty, A. 'From Passions to Emotions and Sentiments' Philosophy 57.220 (1982): 159-72.
Saccamano, N. 'Parting with Prejudice,' in Politics and the Passions, 1500-1850, ed. Kahn, Saccamano and Coli (Princeton Univ. Press, 2006)
Steiner, G. The Death of Tragedy (Knopf, 1961)
Wasserman, E. 'The Pleasures of Tragedy.' ELH 14 (1947): 283-307.
Williams, R. Modern Tragedy (Penguin, 1992)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills As an outcome of having studied this course, students will benefit from having developed a range of personal and professional skills commensurate with the range of SCQF Level 10 characteristics:
Knowledge and understanding: students will have had the opportunity to demonstrate their detailed knowledge and understanding of the specialist subject of eighteenth-century tragedy while also showing a critical understanding of a range of the principal concepts of literary analysis in relation to their reading and discussion of the course material;
Applied Knowledge, Skills and Understanding: in their work for class discussion, presentations and formal assessment tasks, students will have been able to practice the application of these theories and concepts in their construction of arguments about the course material;
Generic Cognitive Skills: in completing assessed essays and class presentations, students will have practiced identifying, defining, conceptualising and analysing complex problems and issues germane to the discipline;
Communication: through participating in these tasks students will also have demonstrated the ability to communicate ideas and information about specialised topics in the discipline to an informed audience of their peers and subject specialists;
Autonomy and Working with Others: students will also have shown the capacity to work autonomously and in small groups on designated tasks, develop new thinking with their peers, and take responsibility for the reporting, analysis and defence of these ideas to a larger group.
Additional Class Delivery Information Seminar: two hours per week for 10 weeks;
plus attendance at Autonomous Learning Group for one hour each week - at time to be arranged
KeywordsTreagedy,theatre and performance,eighteenth-century culture,theories of emotions.
Course organiserDr Rebecca Tierney-Hynes
Tel: (0131 6)50 8410
Course secretaryMs Sheila Strathdee
Tel: (0131 6)50 3619
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