First-Year Studies: Fops, Coquettes, and the Masquerade: Fashioning Gender and Courtship From Shakespeare to Austen


This course looks at the representation of sexual difference and romantic attachment on the page and stage from 1590 to 1820, a crucial period in the consolidation of modern assumptions about sexuality, marriage, and gendered behavior. The emphasis will be on drama and prose fiction, but we will also sample a range of other expressive forms, including lyric and narrative poetry, visual satire and portraiture, conduct literature, and life-writing. Students will be introduced to some of the most compelling figures in European literature, all of whom share an interest in the conventions of courtship and the performance of gender: John Milton, England’s foremost epic poet; Aphra Behn, its first professional female author; bawdy comic playwrights like George Etherege and William Wycherley; the innovative early novelists Eliza Haywood, Daniel Defoe, and Samuel Richardson; Alexander Pope, the masterful verse satirist; the pioneering periodical writers Joseph Addison and Richard Steele; the cross-dressing memoirist Charlotte Charke; and the founder of modern feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft. Bracketing the yearlong course will be extended coverage of the two most influential authors of courtship narratives in English, Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Limited attention will be paid to earlier writers on sex and marriage such as Ovid and St. Paul, as well as to contemporary gender theory. We will also consider select films that reflect the legacy of early modern fictions of gender, including work by directors such as Frank Capra, Preston Sturges, and Alfred Hitchcock.