ENG457H1F: The English Language in the 1770s

Prof Carol Percy, Department of English, University of Toronto

||Click HERE for an improved version of the course!||


Course Meetings


New College, Wetmore Hall 51B.

Wednesdays 10-12

Regular access to email and to the world-wide-web.

Office hours: TWR 12:15-1, Wetmore Hall 125.

Contact Prof. Percy by email or telephone, 978-4287.

There will also be a library orientation session tailored to this course on Wednesday 26th September from 4-6. Sorry about the time: there痴 a run on the library instruction rooms at this time of the year. I hope that you can all make it.

Quick links

||Course description|| ||Method of evaluation|| ||Required reading||
||Take-home assignment #2|| ||Abstracts of research papers||
||Library resources for this course: Sara McDowell's links|| ||Library and Internet Skills: Library's schedule|| ||Other online resources||
||Course outline|| ||Research paper topics||


Course Description


A survey of eighteenth-century English (in its broadest sense: lexicon, grammar, spelling, dialect, style) in literary and non-literary texts. We will focus on the 1770s: a few novels, plays, and poems will be read alongside extracts from non-literary prose. We will observe and analyze examples of and attitudes to language variation, standardization, and change in extracts from linguistic (dictionaries, grammars, and contemporary book reviews) and non-linguistic (e.g., travel, history, science, education, cookery) texts. My aim for the course is for us to produce a collection of essays that present a fairly comprehensive view of language in the period. Most of the assignments relate to this aim.


The first five weeks of the course will consist mostly of lectures, with discussion arising from the intersection of the lectures with the text(s) of the day and with The Rivals. We will also be meeting on September 26th between 4 and 6 for a special library session tailored to the assignments and activities of this course. During this time you should be (re)reading Evelina and Humphry Clinker and working with me to pick the topic for your research paper. In week 3 you will get a short take-home test on Evelina and Humphry Clinker, due in week 5.


In weeks six and seven we will discuss Evelina (week 6) and Humphry Clinker (week 7).


The content of the second half of the course will be determined by your own interests: you値l have chosen a topic and will present it to the class. Topics may include the significance of the standardization of English for lower-class, female, Scottish and Irish writers, and for enterprising members of the book trade; scientific English; and the roots of world English. I値l be giving you a long list of suggested subjects, but you値l be encouraged to write your research paper on a relevant topic of your own choice.


From weeks eight onwards, you値l be presenting an overview of your research to the rest of the class. A week before you present your work, you値l give (1) the rest of the class appropriate readings and questions to consider and (2) me a draft of your work in progress I値l email you feedback by Friday evening so that you can revise it over the weekend. For the oral, you値l be evaluated not only on your ability to present a clear and coherent and persuasive argument, but on your ability to generate discussion after your paper. On the last day of term, you値l hand in the final version of your paper (4000-5000 words) preceded by a brief (500 word) abstract of it to be mounted as a 努eb encyclopedia entry.


In addition to conveying content, the course will also teach or exercise important skills for upper-level work in the humanities. You will use library resources to find relevant secondary sources for your research (literary, linguistic, and historical/cultural), write abstracts of scholarly papers (another scholar痴 and your own), and present your work to others.


Method of Evaluation

LATE WORK. All work is due by 6 pm on the due date. Late work is penalized at a rate of 5w% per day for seminar drafts and readings/questions, 2% per day for tests and the final essay. However, please note that ALL TERM WORK MUST BE SUBMITTED BY THE LAST DAY OF CLASSES, DECEMBER 7th 2001.

You can expect the take-home test to cover all of the seminars: specifically, it will take the shape of an analytic introduction to our collection of essays about language in Britain in the 1770s. You値l be expected to identify, classify, analyze threads that link our different papers.


Required Reading


Literary texts available at the University of Toronto Bookstore: Sheridan痴 The Rivals (1775), Burney痴 Evelina (1778), and Smollett痴 Humphry Clinker (1771). Other primary texts will be available during the term: a fee of about $5 will be collected.


There will also be required secondary readings for most weeks: these will be available at the short-term loan department, 9th floor Robarts.


Online resources


Robarts Library Resources for C18th (poetry and women) (Patricia Bellamy, Robarts Library, U of Toronto)



Eighteenth-Century Chronology (Jack Lynch, Rutgers)


Eighteenth-century resources and texts

Eighteenth-Century Resources (Jack Lynch, Rutgers)

Eighteenth-Century Resources (the E-server)

Eighteenth-Century Electronic Texts (Jack Lynch, Rutgers)

Chadwyck Healey痴 Literature Online (electronic texts, author biographies, bibliographies..)



C18-L (Eighteenth-Century E-list) Home Page (links to archives, other resources)



HELL (History of the English Language Links): Early Modern Language links



Oxford English Dictionary online




Course outline

WEEK 1. September 12th

Introduction: dictionaries and grammars
Secondary readings

WEEK 2. September 19th

Language and its users 1: class & gender
Secondary readings

Anon. (Goldsmith?), The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (handout: extracts, and the first four or five chapters, either from a text-only link or from the Hockliffe project. Choose "Catalogue" and pick text 0124, or Choose "Title" and type "Goody" and pick text 0124.(1765).

PR 3291 A1 G6 1766A STL.

Sheridan, The Rivals (1775)

WEEK 3. September 26th

Secondary readings
Language and its users 2: region & race
Receive take-home test #1 (on Evelina and Humphry Clinker): due October 15th

Library instruction session: 4:10 pm

WEEK 4. October 3rd

Secondary readings
Language and its uses 1: an overview of literary language

WEEK 5. October 10th

Secondary readings

Language and its uses 2: scientific and technological change

Take-home test #1 due October 15th

WEEK 6. October 17th

Frances Burney, Evelina

WEEK 7. October 24th

Tobias Smollett, Humphry Clinker

WEEK 8. October 31st

Seminar topics start: run through week 13

Admin: November 4th is the last day to drop a fall course without academic penalty

WEEK 9. November 7th

Katie Fraser, Joel Grothe, Vivien Lee

WEEK 10. November 14th

Claire Baldwin, Steven Lee.

WEEK 11. November 21st

Julia Marko, Dana Snell

Receive take-home test #2: due December 7th

WEEK 12. November 28th

Angela Davis, Julie Reitsma, Yasmin Siddiqui

WEEK 13. December 5th

5-minute reports on the final research papers. Q&A, review.

Take-home test #2: due December 7th