English Restoration and 18th Century Drama (LIT4240.01)

Maya Cantu

This class will explore English drama of the Restoration and 18th century, with a focus on the structure and conventions of the comedy of manners. During the Restoration, the cavaliers of Charles II’s court promoted an ethos of sophisticated debauchery, fueled by the Hobbesian social currency of wit and power. Within this world of masks, mirrors, and modes, playwrights—including “female wits” such as Aphra Behn—both celebrated and skewered the artifices of their society, while creating daring roles for the women newly permitted to appear on the English stage. We will explore how playwrights, in works ranging from The Country Wife to She Stoops to Conquer, utilized an array of narrative and linguistic devices to reflect themes of deception and disguise. This bawdy arsenal of wit included repartee, epigrams and double entendres; direct address and audience asides; stock characters such as the rake and the fop; and the plot ‘stratagems’ of beaux and belles alike. Encompassing plays by Wycherley, Etherege, Vanbrugh, Congreve, Behn, Pix, Farquhar, Centlivre, Goldsmith, Cowley, and Sheridan, the class will also place the comedy of manners in comparative context with other Restoration and 18th century forms, including the comedy of intrigues, heroic drama, and cross currents in opera seria and ballad opera.

Prerequisites: Permission of the instructor. Interested students should submit an analytical writing sample to mayacantu@bennington.edu.
Credits: 4
Th 8:30-12:10
Maximum Enrollment: 18
Course Frequency: One time only
This course is categorized as All courses, Literature, and tagged , , , , , , , .