English 495N.B, Spring 1998 Professor Laura Mandell
TR 12:30-1:45 370 Bachelor Hall; 9-5276
Havighurst Lab (Bachelor 260) Office Hours: TR 2:00-3:00
9 Irvin Hall Hours in Library: TR 11:00-12:00

The Sublime, Beautiful, and Picturesque

in Eighteenth-Century England

The Crimes & Cruelties of this Prince [Henry the 8th ] were too numerous to be mentioned, . . . & nothing can be said in his vindication, but that his abolishing Religious Houses & leaving them to the ruinous depredations of time has been of infinite use to the landscape of England in general, which probably was a principal motive for his doing it, since otherwise why should a Man who was of no Religion himself be at so much trouble to abolish one which had for ages been established in the Kingdom.
— Jane Austen, The History of England (written at age 16)

In this course, we will pull together ideas from the fields of philosophy, literature, and art history. We will read aesthetic treatises by Edmund Burke, William Gilpin, and others on the sublime, beautiful, and picturesque, and then will examine eighteenth-century art, poetry, and landscape informed by the principles put forward in those treatises. But we will also be trying to put these ideas into action in a new way made possible with new technologies. We will build on the MOO (a Multi-user-dimension Objects Oriented server) a lane full of country houses. Students will design various country houses, building up the rooms and filling them with artworks, musical instruments, collections of poetry, toys, and books of all sorts. By putting eighteenth-century literary and art works into its living context, we will be able to think about several important questions: how are aesthetic objects related to economic and political developments that brought the country manor into existence and strengthened the country gentry? How did aesthetic objects figure into the battle between the country and the city, as England changed from a fundamentally agrarian to a metropolitan society? What are the differences between the way that people living during the eighteenth century experienced art and poetry of the period, and the way we experience it now, studying it retrospectively? What might be some of the differences between "high" culture and popular art, then and now?

The Miami MOO is a computer program that allows us to design places--rooms, scenes, etc.--primarily in the medium of language: a visitor to the MOO will be told what he sees as he is led on a tour through any particular realm. I have begun to design a realm called "Strawberry Hill," named after Horace Walpole's Country Home;(1) it contains Country House Lane, lined so far only with country houses built out of poems (Penshurst, Saxham, Crumble-Hall). But because people can visit in Netscape the virtual reality we build on the MOO, we will be able to add pictures, texts, and even music to the houses on the lane.

Students enrolled in this Capstone course will be grouped together in pairs. Each pair will create a bibliography of works on country houses and bibliographies on painting and music of the period. Each pair will present their understanding of these subjects in class, and we will search together for sources of them on the Internet. Each pair will then be asked to design their country house and furnish it with artworks and music based on their research and on what we find on the Internet. The house will be built out of words describing it, floor-plans, artwork scanned in and retrieved from the Internet.

One important feature of the MOO is that we can all meet in a room and "talk" to each other in what is really a text-voice, spontaneously written dialogue. Each of us adopts a name, and becomes a character in the MOO realm. So while we are building our country houses together, we are going to "play" eighteenth-century England. We will all attend together some concerts, salons, and balls in various country-house rooms. That is, some of our class discussions will be based in virtual reality.

[To see some of the student projects that were built for this class, please log onto the MOO as a guest, then go to Strawberry Hill, then to Country House Lane, then to Student Country Houses. You may also wish to see essays about building country houses that were written by these students in 1998.]

What is the difference, you might ask, between just opening a text, looking at a slide, or reading poetry in the classroom, and doing so in virtual reality, on the MOO? I'm not sure--that is what we will find out. But one immediately visible difference is that, when we are logged onto the MOO, we won't discuss the poems as ourselves but as if we were the people living during the eighteenth century. I intend to write an article after teaching this course about the possibilities of using the MOO in the classroom in general, and in particular about how the difference between reading and reading as someone else affects what we think and learn. I will ask all of you to contribute to that article in addition to presenting research in class and building a country house by keeping a journal of your activities on the MOO and on the Internet, describing your feelings and thoughts as you undertake these activities.

30% Attendance and Participation
30% Research (2 Bibliographies) and Presentations
30% Your Country House
10% Contribution to the article (a Journal of at least 10 detailed, 3- to 5-paragraph entries)
Required Texts:
Ashfield and De Bolla, The Sublime: A Reader in British Eighteenth-Century Aesthetic Theory
Alexander Pope, The Poetry & Prose of Alexander Pope (Riverside)
Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas on the Sublime and the Beautiful, ed. James Boulton
Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto (Oxford World Classics)
Samuel Johnson, Selected Writings (Penguin)
Roger Lonsdale, ed., Eighteenth-Century Women Poets (Oxford)
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey,Mansfield Park (Signet Classics)
Handout Packet at Oxford Copy Shop, available Jan. 10


Week 1

1/13 Introduction to the course

1/15 Ashfield and De Bolla, 1-16 "Introduction"

Week 2

1/20 Sublimity and Rhetoric

Meet in Havighurst Lab for Introduction to the MOO on Netscape

Ashfield and De Bolla, 17-39, 57-71, 106-115

1/22 The Country vs. The City

Raymond Williams, "Nature's Threads," in The Country and the City (in HO Packet)

Oliver Goldsmith, "The Traveller"; "The Deserted Village" (in HO Packet)

Week 3

: The Country vs. The City (cont')

1/27 and 1/29 Jane Austen's Mansfield Park

Week 4

2/3 MOOing

Meet in Havighurst Lab to learn basics of MOO.

Ashfield and De Bolla, 263-277

2/5 Research

Research for your Country House: preliminary bibliography to be handed out

Five groups will present for 15 minutes the fruits of their research

Week 5:

Neoclassical Modes

Start building your Country House Now!

2/10 Pastoral Pope

Alexander Pope, 3-20, 65-77, 104-113

2/12 Satiric Pope

Pope, 167-175, 280-306, 354-378

Week 6

Keep building your Country House on the MOO.

2/17 NO CLASS — Exchange Day

2/19 Mid-century Aesthetics

Terry Eagleton, "Free Particulars" (HO Packet)

Samuel Johnson, "Preface to Shakespeare," 261-288

Week 7:

Aesthetic Theory (Keep building!)

2/24 Terry Eagleton, "The Law of the Heart" (HO Packet)

2/26 Johnson, Lives of the Poets: Milton, Pope, Gray (408-430, 434-467, 470-480)

Week 8

3/3 Meet in Havighurst Lab for a poetry salon:

Ashfield and De Bolla, 207-212 (Blair on Ossian)

Thomas Gray and William Collins (poems in HO Packet)

3/5 Selections from Lonsdale's Eighteenth-Century Women Poets

3/10-3/12 SPRING BREAK

Week 9

Painting and Gardening / Landscaping

What paintings will you put in your Country House?

3/17 Ashfield and De Bolla, 263-277

Research for your Country House: paintings, portraits

3/19 5 groups will present the fruits of their research in Havighurst Lab, showing us their paintings on the Internet

Week 10

Social Critique of Painting / Landscaping

What objects can you put in your country house, or on the grounds, to demonstrate social, economic, and political conflicts?

3/24 Ashfield and De Bolla, 278-306

excerpts from John Barrell, The Dark Side of the Landscape: The Rural Poor in English Painting 1730-1840 (On Reserve)

3/26 excerpts from eds. Copley and Garside, The Politics of the Picturesque: Literature, Landscape, and Aesthetics since 1770 (On Reserve)

Week 11

Aesthetic Theory--Burke

Make sublime, beautiful, and picturesque parts of the house and gardens.

3/31 Howard Caygill, "Materials for a Good System" (HO Packet)

Edmund Burke, An Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful

4/2 Burke (cont')

Ashfield and De Bolla 233-252

Week 12

Aesthetic Theory--Burke in Practice

Make gothic objects in the rooms of your house.

4/7 and 4/9 Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto

Week 13

Burke's Theory--Critiqued

Make your Country House in some part, at least, a "gothic pile."

4/14 and 4/16 Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Week 14

Country House Due--Must Be COMPLETED NOW

4/21 and 4/23 Class presentations of Country Houses built by students: we will attend in each other's houses balls, salons, etc.

Week 15

4/28 and 4/30 Discussions of the differences between eighteenth-century literature as lived and as studied in retrospect.