The Long 18th Century through Epistolary Works
18th Century Epistolary Works
Epistolary Fiction Then and Now
In this age, we are all writers of letters even if they do not take on the traditional form of ink on paper. Whether social media, emails, or blogs. The technology has changed, but the purpose is still the same. This course will return to the roots of letter writing by exploring and examining epistolary novels and letter collections of the long 18th century. Epistolary fiction is a collection of letters in book form that tell a story like a novel would through the medium of letter writing. During the 18th century the circulation of actual letters was also popular (travel writing, letters between friends, etc.). An increase in literacy, the circulation of letter writing manuals (that also gave readers moral and ethical advice) and the expansion of the postal system increased the popularity of letter writing. This course will explore the history of epistolary fiction as a genre, its rise in popularity and its resurgence in the 20th and 21st centuries. Students will read 18th century epistolary works such as Aphra Behn’s Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (fiction) and Letters of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African (non-fiction), focusing on the themes and techniques of these works as well as their historical contexts. Students will also read more recent epistolary works and theorize about modern events contributing to the resurgence of the genre and how the letters of the 18th century influenced these works. The class will culminate with the creation of an open access resource using an 18th century and a modern epistolary work as the basis for a larger project about epistolary fiction.
Weekly Historical Context Response
For each work, research an event referred to in the text or an event that you believe influenced the text.
Using Scalar, build an OAR on a particular epistolary work, technique, theme, connection an 18th century and modern work, etc. More details TBD
- The Epistolary Novel: Its Origin, Development, Decline, and Residuary Influence by Godfrey Frank Singer
- Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister by Aphra Behn
- Letter of the Late Ignatius Sancho, An African (non-fiction)
- A Woman of Colour by Anonymous
- The Woman of Colour A Tale by Anonymous
- Obi or the History of Three-Fingered Jack by William Earle
- Full Stop (short story) by Alecia McKenzie
- The Bible (as an example)
- Screwtape’s Letters
- The Turkish Embassy Letters by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
- Frances Burney
Popular Culture Sources
These are sources that are for entertainment and also to show how epistolary tradition in modern times using sources with which students are most likely familiar.
- Star Trek Captain’s log
- Jimmy Fallon’s letters
- To All the Boy’s I’ve Loved Before
- You’ve Got Mail
I also might have an idea for students to participate in active letter-writing. Something really interactive that they can then include in their final project. Just like one might purchase a textbook for class, a book of stamps might be a required material, but that’s not something I am settled on at this time.