James Horowitz

BA, New York University. MA, PhD, Yale University. Special interests include Restoration and 18th-century literature, the history of the novel, film and film theory, political history, Henry James, and gender studies. SLC, 2008–

Course Information

Current undergraduate courses

Acting Up: Theatre and Theatricality in Enlightenment England

Spring

From melodrama to burlesque, farce to musical theatre, the Restoration and 18th-century England helped shape the modern conventions of dramatic art and popular entertainment. The era also introduced an early form of celebrity culture, thanks in part to the rise of England’s first professional female actors and the reign of a king, Charles II, who loved theatre and all-too-public extramarital sex. The prominence of drama also raised unsettling questions about the nature and potential of performance itself, not only as a form of artistic practice but also as an element of social and political life: What if our seemingly God-given identities (king and subject, husband and wife) were merely factitious roles that we could adopt or discard at will? This course will consider how authors and theatrical professionals from the 1660s to the 1790s imagined the potential of performance to transform—or sometimes to reinforce—the status quo, with a look ahead to Hollywood films that have inherited and adapted the legacy of Enlightenment-era entertainments. Our emphasis will be on plays, with a survey of major 18th-century comedies (some of the funniest ever written), parodies, afterpieces, heroic tragedies, imperial pageants, sentimental dramas, and Gothic spectacles by authors such as William Wycherley, George Etherege, John Dryden, Aphra Behn, Susanna Centlivre, John Gay, Henry Fielding, and Hannah Cowley. We will also consider nondramatic writing on performance and theatrical culture, including 18th-century acting manuals, racy theatrical memoirs, and a “masquerade novel” by Eliza Haywood, as well as films by directors such as Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, and Hal Ashby.

Faculty
Related Cross-Discipline Paths

Empire of Letters: Defining the Arts and the World in the Age of Johnson

Fall

“Damn Dr. Johnson,” grumbles a character in Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1853 novel, Cranford. By then, Samuel Johnson (1709-84) had been provoking strong feelings for more than a century. In addition to compiling the first English dictionary of note, Johnson was a gifted and hugely influential critic, poet, political commentator, biographer, and satirist, as well as a legendarily pithy conversationalist and master of the English sentence. His overbearing but strangely lovable personality was preserved for posterity by his friend and disciple James Boswell—who, in 1791, published the greatest (and most fun) of all literary biographies, The Life of Johnson, which records, among much else, Johnson’s near-blindness, probable Tourette’s Syndrome, and selfless love of cats. Now, after the tercentenary of his birth and the flood of books commemorating it, Johnson remains perhaps the most familiar model of a vigorously independent public intellectual, even with (or perhaps because of) his many eccentricities and contradictions such as his hatred of both slavery and the American Revolution. This course will reappraise Johnson’s legacy but will do so within a broad cultural survey of the anglophone world across the second half of the 18th century. Along with Johnson, Boswell, and other titans of Enlightenment prose such as Edward Gibbon, David Hume, and Adam Smith, we will sample international writing on imperialism and the slave trade (Olaudah Equiano, the abolitionist poets), the French and American revolutions (Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine), and women’s rights (the bluestocking circle, Mary Wollstonecraft). We will also sample the period’s fiction (Horace Walpole’s Gothic Castle of Otranto, Frances Burney’s coming-of-age novel Evelina), comic drama (Oliver Goldsmith’s uproarious She Stoops to Conquer), and personal writing (Burney’s diary, Boswell’s shockingly candid “London Journal”), as well as Celtic literature (James Macpherson), visual art (William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds), and the poetic innovations that laid the groundwork for Romanticism (Thomas Gray, William Collins). We will also glance at Johnson’s reception and influence over the centuries; for instance, in the work of Virginia Woolf.

Faculty

Recovering Jane Austen

Spring

Forget Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, and (especially) Anne Hathaway. Our course will cut through two centuries of sentimental misconceptions about the fiction and career of Jane Austen (1775-1817) and restore her novels to the boisterous period in which she lived and wrote: late Georgian Britain, on the stormy borderland between the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Far from the gentle and retiring scribbler whom we know from tradition, Austen was, in fact, a professionally ambitious, socially engaged, and formally experimental artist—both a master of style and characterization and a topical satirist of lacerating insight and wit. We will pay close attention to all of Austen’s major writing—not only her six novels but also to her saturnalian shorter works and some of her revealing and often caustic correspondence and an array of literary productions that shaped her attitudes and artistry, including stage comedy, lyric poetry, political and moral philosophy, conduct literature, and Gothic, amorous, and sentimental fiction. The result, it is hoped, will be an expert knowledge of Austen’s canon and of her responses to the most controversial subjects of her age: the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars; female education and authorship; courtship, marriage, and sexuality; the role of the church; slavery and abolition; the growth of the British Empire; consumer culture; and the rise of the novel. We will also survey the critical and scholarly reception of Austen’s fiction from Regency-era book reviews to recent landmarks in Austen studies.

Faculty

Previous courses

18th-Century Women of Letters

Year

By 1817, Jane Austen could boast that novels by women had “afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world.” A mere century and a half earlier, printed work by women was still a rarity. This course traces the emergence of professional female authorship from the end of the Renaissance to the heyday of Romanticism, along the way introducing students to the most illustrious members of Austen’s “literary corporation.” Some 18th-century women of letters remain familiar today (Aphra Behn, Mary Wollstonecraft), while many of them deserve more exposure (Eliza Haywood, Sarah Fielding, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth). The texts we cover will be as eclectic as the authors themselves—from lyric poems to gothic novels, sex comedies to political jeremiads, fantasy literature to travel writing, autobiographies to courtship narratives—but the emphasis, especially in the spring, will be on prose fiction. Various theoretical approaches to the history of women’s writing will be considered, but we will primarily be interested in studying the individual careers, personalities, and achievements of these remarkable artists. We will also pay attention to male authors who, in response to the rise of professional women’s writing, employed complex female personae in their own work.

Faculty

Acting Up: Theatre and Theatricality in 18th-Century England

Fall

From melodrama to burlesque, farce to musical theatre, Restoration and 18th-century England helped to define the modern conventions of dramatic art and popular entertainment. Beginning with the reign of a king who loved the theatre and all-too-public extramarital sex (Charles II), the era also raised new and troubling questions about the nature and potential of performance—not only as an aspect of artistic practice but also as an element of all social and political life. What if all our identities (king and subject, husband and wife) were not God-given and prescriptive but, instead, factitious and changeable—mere roles that we can adopt or discard at will? This course considers how authors from the 1660s to the 1800s imagined the potential of performance to transform—or sometimes to reinforce—the status quo, with a look ahead to the Hollywood films that inherited and adapted their legacy. Our emphasis will be on drama, with a survey of major 18th-century comedies, parodies, afterpieces, heroic tragedies, sentimental dramas, and gothic spectacles by playwrights such as William Wycherley, George Etherege, John Dryden, Aphra Behn, Susanna Centlivre, John Gay, Henry Fielding, Hannah Cowley, and Horace Walpole. We will intersperse our dramatic reading with viewings of films that demonstrate its influence from directors like Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, and Hal Ashby. Some attention will also be paid to nondramatic writing on performance and theatrical culture, including 18th-century acting manuals, theatrical memoirs, and a “masquerade novel” by Eliza Haywood.

Faculty

Empire of Letters: Mapping the Arts and the World in the Age of Johnson

Spring

“Damn Dr. Johnson,” grumbles a character in Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1853 novel, Cranford. By then Samuel Johnson (1709-84) had been inspiring strong feelings for more than a century. Aside from compiling the first English dictionary of note, Johnson was a gifted and hugely influential critic, poet, political commentator, biographer, and novelist—as well as a legendarily pithy conversationalist and a master of the English sentence. His overbearing but strangely lovable personality was preserved for posterity by his friend and disciple, James Boswell, who in 1791 published the greatest of all literary biographies, The Life of Johnson, which records, among much else, Johnson’s near-blindness, probable Tourette’s Syndrome, and selfless love of cats. Now, after the tercentenary of his birth and the flood of books commemorating it, Johnson remains perhaps the most familiar model of a vigorously independent public intellectual—even with (or perhaps because of) his many eccentricities and contradictions, such as his hatred of both slavery and the American Revolution. This course will reappraise Johnson’s legacy but will do so within a broad cultural survey of the Anglophone world across the second half of the 18th century. In addition to Johnson, Boswell, and other titans of Enlightenment prose like Edward Gibbon, David Hume, and Adam Smith, we will sample international writing on imperialism and the slave trade (Olaudah Equiano, the abolitionist poets), the French and American revolutions (Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke), and women’s rights (the bluestocking circle, Mary Wollstonecraft). We will also sample the period’s novels (Horace Walpole, Tobias Smollett), drama (Richard Brinsley Sheridan), and personal writing (Frances Burney’s diary, Boswell’s shockingly candid London Journal), as well as pay attention to Celtic literature (James Macpherson), visual art (William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds), and the poetic innovations that laid the groundwork for Romanticism (Thomas Gray, William Collins). We will also glance at Johnson’s reception and influence over the centuries; for instance, in the work of Virginia Woolf.

Faculty

Experiment and Scandal: The 18th-Century British Novel

Spring

The 18th century introduced the long, realist prose fictions that we now call novels. As often with emergent literary forms, the novel arrived with an unsavory reputation and its early practitioners labored, often unsuccessfully, to distinguish their work from ephemeral printed news, escapist prose romances, and pornography. It was not until the defining achievement of authors such as Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott at the beginning of the next century that the novel achieved a status as polite and, at times, even prestigious entertainment. This course looks at the difficult growth of the novel from its miscellaneous origins in the 17th century to the controversial experiments of the early 1700s and the eclectic masterpieces of Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, and Austen. Other authors may include Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, John Cleland, Tobias Smollett, Matthew Lewis, Frances Burney, and Maria Edgeworth. Everything we read will be arresting and restlessly experimental; much of it will also be bawdy, transgressive, and outrageously funny. Topics of conversation will include the rise of female authorship, the emergence of Gothic and courtship fiction, the relationship between the novel and other literary genres or modes (lyric and epic poetry, life-writing, allegory), novelists’ responses to topical controversies (slavery, the age of Revolution), and the meaning of realism. We may also consider films adapted from 18th-century fiction, perhaps including Tony Richardson’s 1963 Tom Jones and Michael Winterbottom’s 2006 Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.

Faculty

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.

Faculty

Reason and Revolution, Satire and the City: Literature and Society in the Age of Swift

Fall

This lecture examines British literary culture across the lifetime of the great Anglo-Irish satirist Jonathan Swift. Between Swift’s birth in 1667 and his death in 1745, Britain emerged from an era of violent civil conflict to become a major military and colonial power with a functional, if often massively corrupt, political system, along with a sense of national identity that has remained consistent to this day and several of the world’s great metropolitan centers. As Britain achieved a new political stability, however, its marketplace of literature and ideas grew increasingly diverse and fractious—as journalism and popular fiction, some of it authored by women, challenged the cultural supremacy of neoclassical poetry written by and for men and as voices from the social and colonial margins made themselves heard in print. Swift’s career exemplified many of these tensions, as he wrote propaganda for both sides of the political aisle, expressed reactionary social values while crafting subversively experimental works of fiction, mocked the new urban culture of London while portraying it with loving fidelity, and attacked the English exploitation of Ireland even as he formed part of the Anglican religious establishment in Dublin. This course will cover Swift’s major works—from prose fictions such as Gulliver’s Travels to his outrageous scatological poetry and his scathing writings on Ireland, including the famous Modest Proposal—as well as a wide variety of other voices from this raucous period in English letters. Writers may include: England’s first professional female author, Aphra Behn; the wildly transgressive poet John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2004 film The Libertine; Rochester’s rival, the political satirist John Dryden; comic playwrights such as William Congreve; Swift’s friend and collaborator, Alexander Pope, who attacked and memorialized the social and literary scene of the day in lapidary verse; moral philosophers such as Bernard Mandeville; the visual satirist William Hogarth; and early novelists such as Daniel Defoe and Eliza Haywood.

Faculty