British Classicism: Literature and Arts in 18th-Century Britain

Course information


British Classicism: Literature and Arts in 18th-Century Britain


Cora Zoltán

Course code








Course description

Short description

The seminar examines British Classicism in the eighteenth century. ’Culture’ is here understood and interpreted as a unity of historical, philosophical, literary, aesthetic as well as artistic trends and discourses. By interpreting selected primary sources – mainly literary works of art, paintings and architecture, as well as a few philosophical and aesthetical texts – and secondary literature, the course makes an attempt to understand trends, themes, ideas, and qualities of eighteenth-century British Classicism. Such various authors and their works of art are examined as, for example, Alexander Pope, Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson, William Hogarth, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Colin Campbell or William Kent.


1. Introductory lecture on the historical and philosophical background of the turn and the first half of the 18th century in order to establish a cultural historical context.

2. LITERATURE: Traditions, classicism and challenges.

CORE READINGS: Dickinson, 329-343. p.; Sanders, 273-332. p.

Literature (first class): Pope: An Essay on Criticism (Anthology, 1855-1867. p.); Horatius: Ars poetica (Levelek)

Literature (second class): (Baucis and Philemon by Dryden and Swift) Anthology, 1845-1853. p.; Ovidius Metamorphoses (8. könyv, Philemon és Baucis);

Literature (third class): (Satires) Anthology 2018-2020. p., 1891-1896. p., 1910-1922. p. (Pope’s Satires, An Essay on Man, Imitations of Horace)

Literature (fourth class): (Tatler and Spectator passages): Anthology, 2027-2041. p., 2178-2181. p.; Ross, Spectator No. 1., 119., 130., 178., 409., 411-412., 416.

Literature I: Allusions and the classical heritage

  1. Alexander Pope: An Essay of Criticism (excerpts) and Horatius: Ars Poetica (excerpts in English).
  2. John Dryden: Baucis and Philemon; Jonathan Swift: Baucis and Philemon, and Ovidius: Metamorphoses, Book VIII. (The mock form).

Literature II: The „ethical order” and the „satire”

  1. John Dryden: The Third Satire of Juvenal.
  2. Alexander Pope: An Essay on Man (Epistles) (passages), and Satires (passages), especially Imitations of Horace.

Literature III: „Urbanitas” – the literary world of clubs (education, politics, ethics, taste, aesthetics and literature)

  1. The Tatler and The Spectator (passages) – Joseph Addison and Richard Steele
  2. Bernard Mandeville: The Fable of the Bees



CORE READINGS: Lovejoy, 62-78, 136-166. p.; Monk, 1-62. p.

Aesthetics (first class): Shaftesbury: Anthology, 2169-2178. p.; Hutcheson: Routledge (Aesthetics), 41-51. p.

Aesthetics (second class): Wood, 169-188. p. and Victorianweb; Ross, Spectator No. 1., 119., 130., 178., 409., 411-412., 416.

Aesthetics I: „aesthetic philosophy”

  1. Anthony Ashley Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury): The Moralist; Reflections (passages)
  2. Francis Hutcheson: An Inquiry into the Original of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. (excerpts)


Aesthetics II: The Sublime and The Beautiful: What is Sublime? What is Beauty? Its contemporary relevances.

  1. The tradition of the sublime in England (from the reception of Boileau’s Sublime to Edmund Burke’s Inquiry) (passages): the evolution of the notion of sublime
  2. Aesthetic changes of the early 18th century


4. ARTS:

CORE READINGS: Gaunt, 29-74. p. (suggested 1-29. p.); Watkin, 96-123. p.; Anthology, 2153-2165. p.

  1. Painting: William Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Samuel Richardson, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Godfrey Kneller.
  2. Architecture: Late Baroque, Palladianism and the early Gothic Revival (as also compared with Greek and Roman “classicism” and Gothic of the Middle Ages).


Fall 2018


Requirements to get the grade

Assessment: students’ participation in discussions and debates of the classes (30%), seminar paper (30%), end term test (40%).

Reading list

A Companion to Eighteenth-century Britain. Dickinson, H. T. (ed.), Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.

The Routledge Companion to Britain in the Eighteenth Century: 1688-1820. Gregory, Jeremy – Stevenson, John (eds.), London: Routledge, 2007.

Gaunt, William: A Concise History of English Painting. London: Thames and Hudson, 1974. (relevant parts)

Lovejoy, Arthur O.: Essays in the History of Ideas. New York: Capricorn Books, 1960.

Monk, Samuel Holt: The Sublime. A Study of Critical Theories in XVIII-Century England. Michigan: Ann Arbor, 1960.

Paxman, David: „Aesthetics as Epistemology, Or Knowledge Without Certainty” Eighteenth-Century Studies, 26.3 (1992-1993), 285-306.

Ross, Angus (ed.): Selections from The Tatler and The Spectator of Steele and Addison. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1982.

Sanders, Andrew (ed.): The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. (relevant parts)

The Oxford Anthology of English Literature. Bloom, Harold – Trilling, Lionel et al. (eds.), London: Oxford University Press, 1973. (relevant parts)

The Routledge Companion to Aesthetics. New York, Routledge, 2005.

Watkin, David: English Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979. (relevant parts)

Wood, Theodore E. B.: The Word ’Sublime’ And Its Context (1660-1760). The Hague – Paris, Moulton & Co., 1972. (used as a textbook)

Suggested reading list

Same as the previous list.