Themes

Illustration of two women in profile, facing each other and each reading a pamphlet or booklet

Rise of the novel

Discover how the novel emerged as a new literary form in the 18th century and examine pioneering texts, from Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe to Gulliver’s Travels and Pamela.

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Crop of a portrait of playwright Aphra Behn

Gender and sexuality

Examine representations of gender and sexuality in Restoration and 18th-century literature including Paradise Lost and The Rape of the Lock, and explore the works of early women writers such as Aphra Behn, Frances Burney and Margaret Cavendish.

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Theatre and entertainment

From Restoration comedy to The Beggar’s Opera, She Stoops to Conquer and The School for Scandal: examine key plays alongside the history and conventions of Restoration and 18th-century theatre.

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Crop of oil painting The March of the Guards to Finchley by William Hogarth, depicting the travelling British army and surrounded by a public crowd

Politics and religion

The Civil Wars and the Restoration of the monarchy, the Enlightenment or ‘Age of Reason’, and British colonialism: investigate the political and religious contexts of Restoration and 18th-century literature.

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Georgian society

Explore the Georgian period in its social, political and historical contexts, with overviews of popular politics, the rise of consumerism and entertainment.

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Travel, colonialism and slavery

From Robinson Crusoe to the anti-slavery activism of Olaudah Equiano and the letters of Ignatius Sancho: explore a range of writing produced during an age of travel, trade and colonial conquest, in which Britain vastly expanded its Empire, fuelled by its involvement in slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

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Satire and humour

Discover how writers of the 17th and 18th centuries used satire and humour to address issues around politics and power, inequality and class, gender and marriage – as well as to entertain readers and audiences.

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Politeness, sensibility and sentimentalism

Explore polite culture, sensibility and sentimentalism in the 18th century, and how these concepts are reflected in the writing of the period.

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Language and ideas

From Johnson’s Dictionary to letter-writing, newspapers and coffee-house culture: explore how different forms and mediums helped to develop and circulate language and ideas during the long 18th century.

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