Restoration and 18th Century Poetry: From Dryden to Wordsworth (Free Course)

Taught by William Flesch at Brandeis University, this course offers a survey of poetry that’s out of favor. But it turns out to be among the most skillful, brilliant, witty, invigorating, funny, sometimes dirty poetry ever written. (The dirty poetry is definitely NSFW. It may not even be safe for consenting adults.)  Coverage goes from the urbane civic poetry of Dryden and his contemporaries to the beginnings of the intense subjectivity of Romanticism, with attention to the continuities between these wildly different schools. It’s helpful to have a complete Pope and the Penguin Dryden.  We also use the Oxford Anthology of English Literature, ed. Martin Price.

1) Introduction: Poetic form and the resourcefulness it requires. Poetry about the real world, from politics to sex. For example: Rochester and Walpole: Audio

2) Dryden on Oldham and Oldham on Sodom. Dryden’s scatology: Audio

3) Dryden: Absalom and Achitophel. Antithetical style and heroic couplet: Audio

4) Dryden: Absalom and Achitophel. Dryden’s skepticism about perfectibility: Audio

5) Dryden: Religio Laici and poets’ claims to political and philosophical expertise: Audio

6) Dryden: Conclusion of discussion of both Absalom and Achitophel and Religio Laici: Audio

7) Dryden’s Subtlety: Audio

8) Dryden’s conclusions: his late masques and essays; his prose and his digressiveness: Audio

9) Rochester vs. Dryden; Rochester’s skill and range: Audio

10) Rochester.  Definitely NSFW, but with considerable psychological acuity: Audio

11) Swift. Also NSFW. Swift’s scatology: Audio

12) Swift on himself and on Stella and on his contemporaries: Audio

13) Pope. Introduction and Essay on Criticism: Audio

14) Pope. Essay on Criticism, Eloisa to Abelard, Rape of the Lock: Audio

15) Pope and how poetry becomes topical.  Arbuthnot, Rape of the Lock: Audio

16) Pope’s Satires and To the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady: Audio

17) Last Class on Pope: Dunciad: Audio

18) Doctor Johnson as poet. His Proto-Romanticism: Audio

19) Thomson and Collins as Proto-Romantics: Audio

20) Young, Gray, and the advent of Romanticism: Audio

21) Christopher Smart: Prayer and Praise: Audio

22) Goldsmith and Cowper: Audio

23) Barbauld and Baillie: Audio

24) Burns, Blake, and perspectives on innocence: Audio

25) Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798: Audio

26) Last class, return to Pope’s Essay on Man, and retrospective on course: Audio

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.