Sample Syllabus 2 - Upper Level Course on the Eighteenth-Century Novel


Battle of the Sexes: Sex, Gender and the Eighteenth-Century Literary Tradition

Instructor: Erin Spampinato

Fall 2018

Office: Klapper 352

Office Hours: TBD

Course Blog Url: TBD


Course Description:

This upper level course examines representations of gender in the literature of the long eighteenth century. Students will encounter a range of plays, prose, and fiction from the period between 1660-1830, all of which engage questions of gender and sexuality. Many of the texts we read will treat sexual relations as a kind of “battle,” and much of the analysis we do this semester will require us to examine aggressive and/or competitive conceptions of gender, sex and even love. We will also explore varieties of gender in eighteenth-century representation, representations of queer sex and love, and competing forms of masculinity and femininity. Central to our explorations will be questions of literary influence and history: how did Restoration forms of masculinity like the Libertine, for instance, give way to the eighteenth-century’s Man of Feeling? How did the performance of gender evolve throughout the literature of the century? One of the goals of this class is to bring students in contact with the complex, contradictory energies of eighteenth-century literature, which at once helped codify repressive forms and testified to the remarkable variety of gender and sexual forms which found expression in the period.

This course will require you to write three literary critical essays, the third of which will be adapted for an online audience in our collaborative final project. This project requires students to work collaboratively to create an online “Companion to Eighteenth-Century Literature” which will (hopefully) be a resource for your further study. This class requires that you are willing to engage with technology and read deeply.

Learning Objectives:

(adapted from Colleen Cusick)

• Close read a number of novels, poems, and play, paying attention to diction, imagery, narration, and characterization.

• Learn how 18th-century texts address social, cultural, and political concerns: how they dramatize, explain, reflect upon, and rethink human experience.

• Discuss the development of various literary genres across the century.

• Increase fluency in the elements of academic writing, including thesis, evidence, analysis, format, revision, critical reading, summary, and paraphrase.

• Understand the conventions of various genres of academic literature, like the scholarly article, the annotated edition, the companion, and others.

• Understand the conventions of online publication; execute such publications.

Required Texts:

I usually do not ask students to buy specific editions of books, but since this an intensive reading seminar and since you are mostly English majors, I think it is worthwhile for you to own these editions of the following books. I am asking you to buy (or borrow) scholarly editions of the texts because these provide supplementary readings and notes that we will be using in class. If cost is prohibitive, please know that you WILL be able to find these editions of these texts within the CUNY libraries, if you plan ahead and use Inter Library Loan. Please let me know if you are struggling to acquire the required texts. My own preference is for hard copies, rather than ebooks (but you should make your own decision about what best suits you).

I have provided a link where you can buy the texts directly from the company, but most of these are widely available at chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble as well. (And of course, you can always use Amazon.)

1. Samuel Richardson, Pamela, Or Virtue Rewarded. Ed. Peter Sabor and Margaret Doody. (Penguin Classics)

2. Eliza Haywood and Henry Fielding, Anti-Pamela and Shamela (Broadview)

3. Frances Sheridan, The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph (Broadview)

4. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice. Eds. Donald Gray and Mary A. Favret. (Norton Critical Edition).

Course Expectations

(adapted from Jason Tougaw):

• Participation (15%): I require that my students participate both verbally in class and in an online class discussion (see ‘Blog Entries’ below). I am happy to coach you through this experience if it is hard for you, and I grade participation holistically (based on your whole performance in the class, rather than day by day). I require that you show me evidence that you have read through your participation each day, and I encourage you to speak freely about your questions, surmises, or wild ideas that might not work but are exciting. You should feel free to experiment and question in this classroom.

• Blog Entries (30%): Each week, three students will be assigned to post blog entries related to the week’s reading. These entries should introduce an interesting angle others won’t likely have thought about. Feel free to be creative. Possible genres for blog posts include:

  • An explanation of the argument of a scholarly article about a novel or author we are reading

  • A discussion of the innovations of an adaptation of a novel we’re reading.

  • An imitation, homage, or parody of a writer or text we’re reading.

  • An adaptation of a scene from a novel (in video, prose, poetry, graphic narrative, or another genre of

    your choice)

  • An overview of a public or online response to the author or text.

  • A comparison between two texts.

  • A discussion of the ways an eighteenth-century social, scientific, or cultural text that we have read

    illuminates a novel.

These are suggestions, not requirements. Feel free to devise your own modes or genres. Blog entries will require some research, but they need not be particularly formal. The blog is your place to experiment and explore. I will evaluate your entries primarily on your critical engagement (assigning a score between 1 and 10 for each). Entries should be about 3-5 short paragraphs in length and should integrate relevant links, visual materials, or video. These should be posted by the Sunday before class at 12 noon.

Blog Comments (10%): Each week, students who have not posted blog entries should post a response to at least one of that week’s posts–for a total of ten responses over the course of the semester. Responses need not be lengthy or formal, but they should offer substance: questions about the material posted, links to related material, observations about or counter-arguments to points the author has made. I will evaluate comments based on engagement (assigning each a score between 1 and 10). These should be posted by Tuesday at 12 noon.

Two Academic Essays (15%): This semester you will write two academic essays. For full descriptions, see “Assignments.”

Final Project (30%): This semester, we will create an online “Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Literature” for our final project. This will mean that as a class we will examine the genre of such texts and decide how we could create a digital version (hopefully for your own future use). Each student will be responsible for one entry in the “Companion” (20%) and for some organizational aspect of the project to be determined (10%). These entries will be academic essays that provide readings of the novels or of social, historical, cultural issues that have bearing on eighteenth-century literature; they will be formatted and designed for an online audience.


There are a number of low-stakes assignments that are required in this class (see “Course Expectations” above). These involve regular writing and collaboration with your peers. You should note that the in-class and low stakes assignments weigh as heavily in your final grade as do the formal essays. The grade breakdown is thus designed to favor students who participate fully throughout the course and who make improvement over time. You should also be aware that you are welcome to revise any of your essays and return them to me with your final project.

The formal assignments are as follows:

1. One literary critical essay in which you use close reading and historical analysis to make an argument about some element of the Pamela/Shamela controversy. We will workshop interpretive problems and thesis statements in class. Due 3/31.

2. One literary critical essay in which you use close reading, historical analysis, and some secondary critical theory to argue your claim. You may use any text that you haven’t already written about in a formal essay, and you may use literary criticism and theory that we have read in class. (Ie. you are not required to identify theories/paradigms we have not studied in class.) Due 4/28.

3. A literary critical essay in which you explicate, argue, situate, etc. some element of eighteenth-century culture, history, or society that has bearing on eighteenth-century literature, OR a close-reading of a particular text with historical context. This essay will make up part of our collaborative final project and will constitute your personal contribution to that “Companion.” You may choose your own methodology but you are required to meet with me to discuss your plan. First draft due at individual meeting with me. Final draft due TBD (due date depends on the status of our Companion site’s construction and will be decided by the group).

All assignments should be in MLA format, and should be emailed to me at before the class session in which they are due.

Please name the file accordingly: “Last name, first name, Essay Number”

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty:

(adapted from Amrohini Sahay)

Whenever you draw upon another text in your papers, you need to acknowledge the source.

The absence of such acknowledgement is regarded as plagiarism. As Diana Hacker explains in

A Writer’s Reference,

To be fair and ethical, you must acknowledge your debt to the writers or those sources. If you don’t you are guilty of plagiarism, a serious academic offense.

Three different acts are considered plagiarism: (1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words. (331)

It is the student’s responsibility to learn the proper forms of citation, but we will discuss them in class. Violations include, at the discretion of the instructor, failure for the individual paper to failure for the course; such violations may be entered in the students’ permanent academic record.

Students sometimes plagiarize when they are confused about what attribution means. If you feel any confusion about these issues, do not hesitate to speak with me. I’m happy to try to make this complicated issue clearer to you. My office hours are a great time to discuss these questions.

Grade Breakdown:

Participation – 15%

Blog Entries – 30%

Blog Comments – 10%

Two Academic Essays – 15%

Final Project – 30%

Behavioral Policy:

Intellectual and emotional safety and respect for diversity of thought, person, and action must prevail in this classroom at all times. Learning cannot happen unless people feel safe to succeed and also to fail. We all need to feel that we are part of a community of learners who will not judge us if we sometimes fail. If you cannot participate within those bounds, you will not be allowed to attend class.

You are asked to share with the class your preferred name and pronoun, and you are required to learn the preferred names/pronouns of others in the class. When you respond to someone, you are challenged to speak academically. That means be specific about your claims and the claims of others (ie: “When Catherine claimed that technology is evil, I thought she might be generalizing,” rather than, “I disagree with what she said”). You are asked to be generous with your fellow students and with me.

Use your technology responsibly and respectfully in the classroom.


In keeping with the college’s policy of equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations should go to the Office of Special Services, Kiely Hall Ill. The office will supply you, if appropriate, with a Letter outlining your accommodation needs. You can reach the office by calling (718) 997-5870. All information regarding special accommodations for disabilities will be kept confidential. Please know that while you are welcome to inform me of your disability status/accommodation requirements, you do not have to do so. I respect your right to privacy in this matter. If you bring me the required documents, I will do everything in my power to help you access your accommodations, no questions asked.

Writing Center:

Located in Kiely Hall room 229, the Writing Center is a place where you can seek help with your papers or with your writing in general. In my experience, students who use the Writing Center are more successful than students who do not. You can set up an appointment by calling (718) 997- 5676. Their website, with more information about their services, can be found at:

Office Hours:

My office hours exist for you and I would be delighted to speak to you during them! As an adjunct professor who is also a student, I sometimes do not have as much time to respond to student emails or read student writing as I would like during the week. My office hours, however, are two hours that I set aside weekly to focus on ONLY such issues. Please come see me! If you have a class during my office hours, email me for another appointment time.

Statement of Contractual Obligation

This syllabus is your contract with me and by choosing to remain in this course, you agree to abide by the above policies and procedures. If you feel you are unable to fulfill any of the terms of this syllabus, please contact me immediately so we can make arrangements if possible.

Reading Schedule

(Subject to change! Please make sure that you have checked for in class/blog updates on reading assignments to make sure that you’re prepared. )

*If a text is not listed on the texts to purchase list, it can be found on the “readings” section of the course blog.

2/3 Introductions, course themes, and expectations.

2/10, Selections from Thomas Laqueur, Making Sex, Greta LaFleur, The Natural History of Sexuality in Early America, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala, The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution.

2/17 William Wycherley, The Country Wife (1675).

2/24 Selections from Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock (1712), Eliza Haywood, Fantomina (1725).

3/3 Brief selections from Mary Astel, A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694), and Some Reflections Upon Marriage (1703), Samuel Richardson, Pamela (1740).

3/10 Eliza Haywood, Anti-Pamela (1741), Henry Fielding, Shamela (1741), Jenny Davidson, selections from Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness (Read Chapter One: “Hypocrisy and the Servant Problem” and Chapter Four: “Hypocrisy and the Novel”).

3/17 No reading. Workshop interpretive problems/thesis statements for essay one.

3/24 Alexander Pope, Epistle II: To a Lady (1743), selections from Boswell’s London Journal (1762-3), selections from Richardson’s Sir Charles Grandison (1753), selections from Declan Gilmore-Kavanagh, Effeminate Years: Literature, Politics, and Aesthetics in Mid-Eighteenth-Century Britain.

3/31 Frances Sheridan, Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph (1761). First essay due.

4/2 Selections from Mary Wollstonecraft, The Rights of Woman (1792), Anna Laetitia Barbauld, “The Rights of Woman” (1792).

4/7 Mary Hays, The Victim of Prejudice (1799). (Supplemental readings TBD.)

4/14 Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813). (Supplemental readings TBD.)

4/21**Flex Week** This course requires a heavy reading schedule. This day is on the calendar to allow us to amend the reading schedule, review, add material that responds to student interests, and/or address other student needs.

4/28 Final Project Workshop. Second essay due.

5/5 No class session. Independent groups meet to work on Final Project and students meet with me to discuss essays/revisions.

5/12 Final Project Presentations.

Image Description: Section of “The Harlot’s Progress” by William Hogarth. Public Domain, Image via: