"Villainy Detected!" Crime and Consequences in Britain and America in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Crime Lesson


The following syllabus provides insight into how the "Villainy Detected!" site has been used in the classroom. Additional syllabi and other course materials will be added as they become available.

English 367 -- Writing Back in the Age of Satire and Crime

Professor Jan Fergus

Department of English

Lehigh University

Course Description

Writers in the 18th century who disliked what other writers produced didn't just get angry: they got inspired and they frequently got even. They wrote back, sometimes demolishing their predecessors through satire, and new or revised literary forms could result from the dialogues that were produced between their own works and others'. Their works, too, often focused on the crimes that were rife in the period--such as political corruption, theft by gangs, or violence against women.

We will read prose fiction, drama, and some poetry of this period in pairs or in threes, looking also at some satiric and critical prints and drawings, to enjoy the way all these artists--often with very powerful and contentious personalities--clash with, inspire, borrow from, and make fun of one another. And we will also compare the work of some modern satirists (and the cultural work they do for us)--satirists such as Jon Stewart (Daily Show) and others to be suggested by the class.

"When reading satire, one is always looking for a position to occupy . . . "

Gerald L. Bruns, "Allegory and Satire: A Rhetorical Meditation," New Literary History 11:1 (1979) 128.

"Satyr is a sort of Glass, wherein Beholders do generally discover every body's Face but their own; which is the chief Reason for that kind of Reception it meets in the World, and that so very few are offended with it."

Jonathan Swift, "Preface" to "The Battle of the Books," A Tale of a Tub , ed. A. C. Guthkelch and D. Nichol Smith, 2nd ed. (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1958), p. 215.

Required texts

Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (Oxford)

Daniel Defoe, Roxana (Oxford)

John Gay, The Beggar's Opera (Penguin)

Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (Oxford)

Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman (Oxford)

Roy Porter, English Society in the Eighteenth Century, 2nd ed. (Penguin)

In addition, some readings will be posted on the course website. Other important websites include Lehigh databases (available through Library Services--click on "databases" on homepage, then alphabetically:)

ECCO (Eighteenth-Century Collections Online), allows searches of a huge number of 18c texts online; printouts as well; texts are scanned so are facsimiles of originals.

Literature Online, allows searches of full texts of poetry, prose, and drama from medieval period through the 19th century)

MLA article database--to find articles on any literary topic

Women Writers Project (some overlap with Lit Online, but also some writers and works otherwise not covered)

WorldCat--to find library books all over the world on any topic.

"Villainy Detected!" Crime and Consequences in Britain and America in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries provides access to Trials for Adultery


Class 1: Introduction
Class 2: Jonathan Swift, "Modest Proposal" in the Norton 7th edition if you have it (pp. 2473-79); if not, download from http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/modest.html

Whores, Wives, Sex, Crime, and Satire at the start of the 18th century:

Class 3: Read Roxana through p. 161; Roxana calls herself "Satyrical" (p. 6); where do you see that? In what sense is she a satirist? Or is she? Pay special attention to her speech to the merchant, pp. 147-53.
Class 4: Read Roxana through p. 218--when the merchant comes back into Roxana's orbit. Also read Angier (website), "Spiking the Punch: In Defense of Female Aggression," pp. 287-310.
Class 5: Roxana (finish, thru. p. 303), and Porter's book, Ch. 3, "Power, Politics and the Law," 98-142.
Class 6: Swift's Voyage to the Houyhnhnms, part 4 of Gulliver's Travels(Norton Anthology 2428-73); notice at the end, too, his satire against the British colonial enterprise: if you have the Norton, pp. 2471-72; otherwise the whole text is available on our website for downloading.
Class 7: Read Beggar's Opera, Act 1 (pp. 41-67). Also more on criminal justice system in England: Howson on Jonathan Wild, website, pp. 3-9, Extra Howson, website, "The System," pp. 21-33; and Hay on the criminal system, pp. 17-26. Peachum in Beggar's Opera satirizes Wild. Before class (if you can make it there) we'll listen to some of the songs from the opera, and perhaps view part of a tape. Look at the full image of the Hogarth painting reproduced on the cover of your Penguin ed. of Gay's opera: http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ViewWork?workid=6620&tabview=image. Notice the symmetry that our book cover misses.
Class 8: Finish Beggar's Opera, pp. 68-122. How does its satire on marriage work? On prostitution? To begin to familiarize yourself with ECCO, look up Beggar's Opera on it. You'll need to use the advanced search, specifying title, author, and year (1728), otherwise you'll get hundreds of hits--it was that popular. Print out ONE PAGE from Acts 2 or 3 of any 1728 facsimile of the play that comes up in ECCO and bring it to class. You'll make the acquaintance of the 18th-century printer's "long s" that looks like an f to us. Check it out!
Class 9: Read the plebeian poets Stephen Duck, "The Thresher's Labour," and Mary Collier's answer, "The Woman's Labour," pp. 3-17, url http://www.usask.ca/english/barbauld/related_texts/collier.html Read also Porter, Ch. "The Social Order," pp. 48-97.
Class 10: Comic relief: Swift, "Lady's Dressing Room" and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's answer "The Reasons that Induced Dr. Swift to Write a Poem Called the Lady's Dressing Room," Norton pp. 2585-90; both are also on the website. Read also Swift's "Cassinus and Peter," handouts. Also reply of Miss W-- to Swift, on website.
Class 11: Satire Show. Either bring to class an example of modern satire (printed or taped) to present and discuss in no more than 3-4 minutes, OR browse the online Hogarth exhibition: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/spec/hogarth/main.html and find one print that you think in some way illuminates one or more of the satiric works that we have already read. If we can use Dr 10 or 209 for this class, you'll call up that print online and report for a minute or two on how you think it sheds light on something we've read. If Dr 10 or 209 isn't free, bring enough copies of your chosen print to class so that students can share and look at them while you speak. (Note--if the reports take more than this one class, they will carry over to the next.)
Class 12: Begin Romance of the Forest, ch. 1, pp. 1-14; Porter, ch. 7, "Changing Experiences," pp. 251-311. Think about differences between the world created by Radcliffe's novel and that of the early 18th century work that we have been studying--how do these differences in style and sensibility underline some of Porter's points?
Class 13: Reading day: Romance of the Forest and Porter.

Whores, Wives, and Sex at the end of the century: the Gothic, sentiment, and satire in the novel

Class 14: Romance of the Forest, to p. 293 (through Ch. 18). Also Porter, Ch. 5, on 18c consumerism, "Getting and Spending," pp. 185-213. Expect quiz!
Class 15: Another reading day--Radcliffe and Porter . Also required--that you experiment with ECCO: search there for something that might illuminate the historical or literary context for Radcliffe's novel. For instance, if you did a search on the phrase "Romance of the Forest" you'd find that a play was written based on it; if you typed in "La Motte" as author, see what you come up with (to determine what associations that name might have for Radcliffe's audience); or see what happens if you type "Adeline" as a title. What comes up written before Radcliffe's novel? Post what you find in your ECCO search to the Discussion Board by Sun. Oct. 22, 6 pm.
Class 16: Romance of the Forest, finish (to p. 363). Also Porter on the difficult 1790s, focusing on the take-off to the Industrial Revolution (Ch. 8, "Towards Industrial Society," pp. 311-340). Be prepared to talk about what you put on the discussion board Sunday from ECCO. Expect a quiz today also.
Class 17: Begin Wollstonecraft's unfinished semi-Gothic novel (and Gothic critique) Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman, vol. 1, pp. 71-120 (through Jemima's story). Think about relations between men and women, and also among women, in Jemima's story (remember Angier on aggression).
Class 18: Maria, or The Wrongs of Woman, complete, pp.121-204. (Fragments indicate possible endings; decide on what you think she was likely to write.) Also read selections from three authors on the legal treatment of divorce and rape in the 18c, website (about 19 pages total). Compare Wollstonecraft's treatment of these issues, and read Angier's "Of Hoggamus and Hogwash: Putting Evolutionary Psychology on the Couch," pp. 352-88.
Class 19: Parody of sentimental and Gothic novel: Austen, Northanger Abbey, preface p. xliii, and Vol. 1 (' ch 1-15, through p. 99.
Class 20: Austen, Northanger Abbey, Vol. 2 (to p. 205). Think about how this work could be updated--set in a high school, for instance, as most updates of Austen's works are (because American high schools have fairly rigid class divisions, based on money, popularity, athleticism, etc. etc.). What would it satirize? Have fun with this topic if you can.
Class 21: Post list of two texts or sources--cited in proper MLA form--that help to establish the historical or social context for the satire you've chosen to write your research paper on to class. You also need to write a sentence or two on how this work applies to your chosen satire--i.e., you should have read the sources at least partially. One of these sources--and only one--should be from ECCO.
Class 22: Check out the "Villainy Detected!" website where you'll find Trials for Adultery. Read the adultery trial of Ann Skin. The trial took place in February 1771; late in 1770 she had published a novel, The Old Maid, or the History of Miss Ravensworth, reproduced on ECCO.
Class 23: Skinn's novel, pages TBA, also sample pages from Samuel Richardson's Pamela and/or Clarissa (epistolary novels), possibly also a page from Fielding's Shamela, satirizing Pamela.
Class 24: Post to discussion board list of at least five scholarly works that deal with your chosen satire. Use proper MLA form. These MUST be scholarly sources--articles from scholarly journals, chapters in books, etc. They can be available on the internet, but they cannot be purely internet sources--no Wikipedia, etc. Your best source to find these scholarly articles is the MLA Bibliography, one of Lehigh's databases, or for books, WorldCat, also a Lehigh database.
Class 25: Skinn's novel, pages TBA.
Class 26: Skinn's novel, pages TBA. Also Susan Staves' article on the novel, website. Bring tentative thesis statement for your research paper to class. Also hand in precis (' brief summary) of three articles/book chapters/other scholarly sources that you will cite in your paper. After your precis (in which you summarize the main idea(s) of the articles and indicate what evidence supports those ideas), indicate how you expect to use this article in your paper.
Class 27: Some of Jane Austen's juvenilia, website. Sign up for presentations in last week of class.
Class 28 & 29: Research reports. Prepare a 5-minute oral report on your paper (think of it as a rough draft) for presentation in class.
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