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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2007

E 316K • Masterworks of Literature: British

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35335 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
ben 1.124

Course Description

During the Enlightenment, a wide range of thinkers developed the idea that charity and self-interest were essentially the same, that to do good to others inevitably promoted one's own interests. Over the last 200 years, this idea has formed the core of most political attitudes or systems we identify as "liberal;" indeed, it has in some sense been institutionalized politically in modern liberal democracies with the rise of the welfare state.

In this course, we will study works that antedate this belief, as well as works that both promote and critique it. Among them, the items on the syllabus will cover a wide span of English literary history, from the early modern period to the present. The aim of the course is partly historical, in that it seeks to help students develop a sense of the ways in which charity and philanthropy have been thought about in Anglo-American culture since the middle ages. It is partly literary, in that it encourages students to think about some major developments in English literature over time. But it is also ethical and political in a more immediate sense: the course will offer students an opportunity to think in the broadest possible terms about the moral and ethical issues raised by various ideals of charitable giving.

Grading Policy

Two half-semester tests 25% each
Two short papers (3-5 pages) 15% each
Participation 20%


Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Prioress's Tale"
William Shakespeare, King Lear
Isaac Barrow, "The Duty and Reward of Bounty to the Poor"
Richard Steele, The Conscious Lovers
Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal"
Samuel Johnson, The Life of Savage
R. B. Sheridan, School for Scandal
William Wordsworth, "The Cumberland Beggar "
Thomas Malthus, "An Essay on the Principle of Population"
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
William Booth [W. T. Stead], In Darkest England
G. B. Shaw, Major Barbara


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