Rakes & Libertines

Dr Stephen Bending

To have no Desire, is to be Dead

Course Outline
Texts and Issues
Books to buy/ borrow
Essay Questions
For Week 1


Libertinism is defined by more than sex; but sex is a good place to start. Drawing on a Hobbesian account of desire as self interest and nature as a state of war, and emphasising the need to follow one's natural desires, libertinism's championing of the senses is also a means of exploring ideas of social/sexual domination, relativism and individualism. At its most extreme it mounts a moral case for immorality, denotes a scepticism about the power of reason, and rejects Christian humanist ideas of a universal order and man's place in it. We will be exploring the ways in which writers from Hobbes to Byron engage with the figure of the libertine and will trace changing ideas of sexuality and their relationship with cultural authority and social convention.

The course will draw on a range of genres from the philosophy of Hobbes and the drama of Behn and Etherege, to sentimental and gothic novels, from the poetry of Rochester in the late seventeenth century to the poetry of Byron in the early nineteenth century.

Course Outline

The semester is likely to look a little like this
George Etherege: The Man of Mode
William Wycherley: The Country Wife
Thomas Shadwell: The Libertine
Aphra Behn: The Rover
Daniel Defoe, Roxana
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester: Poems
Samuel Richardson, Pamela
Week Six

Essay Consultation week (individual meetings about essays)
Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest (and essay deadline)
Matthew Lewis, The Monk
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan
Week Eleven
Revision Week
Week Twelve
Revision Week

This is a double module, so there will be a fair amount of reading: in particular, make sure you organize your time so that you have read some of the longer novels before they come up later in the course.

You will need to get hold of the following texts. Where I have mentioned an edition, this is the one that I would recommend.

Restoration and Eighteenth-century Comedy, ed., Scott McMillan, Norton Critical Edition (it includes three of the four texts you need for the first two weeks)

The most useful edition of Rochester is probably, Complete Poems and Plays, ed., Paddy Lyons (Everyman), but it's out of print, so get hold of the David Vieth edition, or, if you must, the Penguin

Daniel Defoe, Roxana, ed. Mullan (Oxford World’s Classics)

Samuel Richardson, Pamela, ed. Keymer (Oxford World's Classics)
NB do try to get hold of this edition: it's substantially different from the Penguin and Everyman versions and much closer to Richardson's original text.

Ann Radcliffe, The Romance of the Forest, ed. Chloe Chard (Oxford World's Classics)

Mathew Lewis, The Monk

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, ed. Vivien Jones (Penguin)

George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan it doesn't matter which edition of Byron you get as long as it's got at least the first four cantos (but try to get the whole thing, as it's good, and will make you laugh)

For the first seminar please read:

Etherege, The Man of Mode, Wycherley, The Country Wife; some knowledge of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan would also help (there are extracts in the Norton edn. as well as here)

Warren Chernaik's Sexual freedom in Restoration Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) will also be helpful for the opening weeks of the course. There will be a copy available in the Reserve collection.

English Department
This page by Stephen Bending
Last updated 27.ix.14