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Course Information

Instructor Info:Daniel Block
Office Extension x6209
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
02:30 PM - 03:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 105
02:30 PM - 03:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 105

Literature in the Age of Terror undertakes a cultural study of terror that reaches from the French Revolution to the twenty-first century.  The course argues that our specifically political use of the words “terror” and “terrorism” emerged alongside a late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century fascination with anxiety, paranoia, and panic to form part of a broad historical phenomenon that literary scholars call Romanticism. 

By putting Romantic-era literature into dialogue with present-day debates about terrorism, 9/11, and the Global War on Terror, the course asks students to critically reflect on contemporary culture from a literary-historical perspective.  Key units address the rhetoric and aesthetics of terror as well as the politics of paranoia and the experience of everyday war.  Along the way, students refine their skill at close reading, applying a theory, and drawing a historical comparison.  We spend the second half of the semester preparing for a mini conference, in which students present their ongoing research as they would at a national meeting of a scholarly organization. 

Course Objectives:

See syllabus

Evaluation Criteria:

Writing and Research Cumulative Skills Rubric

Additional Info:


1789: The fall of the Bastille launches the French Revolution

Historical image: Claude Cholat, La Prise de la Bastille, le 14 Juillet 1789

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (1830)

1790: Publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France;

Publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Men, one of  the first replies to Burke's Reflections and an opening salvo in the so-called "pamphlet wars"

1791: Publication of Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man (Part I)

1792: George III issues a Royal Proclamation banning seditious writing, which was later used to prosecute Thomas Paine and others;

radical artisans form the London Corresponding Society (LCS);

French monarchy overthrown and a thousand prisoners massacred by a Paris mob;

Publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

1793: France declares war against England;

1793-1794: French Reign of Terror.  Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette guillotined

See the "Timeline" feature on the French Revolution Digital Archive for a wealth of information.

1794: William Pitt suspends habeas corpus (the right of trial before imprisonment)

Who is William Pitt (the Younger)?  British politician, leader of the “Tory” party, Prime Minister from 1783-1801 & 1804-1806.  Best known for leading Britain in wars against France and Napoleon;

Who was the leader of the "Whig" opposition?  Charles James Fox.  Opponent of George III and supporter of the French Revolution.  One-time protégée of Edmund Burke;

The government arrested leading members of the LCS on suspicion of “compassing or imagining the death of the king.”  Defendants later acquitted;

Historical image: Richard Newton, Treason!!! (1798)

Robespierre executed.

1795: Passage of the “Two Acts” or “Gagging Acts,” which tightened the treason

statute and banned large political meetings

1796: The French are thwarted in their invasion of Ireland, which looked to France for

liberation from British rule

1797: Bonaparte declares to the Directory Government that France "must destroy the

English monarchy, or expect itself to be destroyed by these intriguing and enterprising islanders... Let us concentrate all our efforts on the navy and annihilate England. That done, Europe is at our feet."

1799: Napoleon staged coup d’etat and named First Consul for Life

1801: Act of Union joins Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) with Ireland to

create the United Kingdom

1802: The Peace of Amiens ends fighting between England and France

The 14-months from 1802 and 1803 marks the only period of peace between 1793 and 1815; “Peace in a week, war in a month,” says a British diplomat

Historical Image: James Gillray, The first Kiss this Ten Years! —or—the meeting of Britannia & Citizen François (1803)

1803-1805: Height of fears that a French invasion of England is imminent

1804: Napoleon crowns himself Emperor of France

1805: The Royal Navy defeats French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar

Historical image: James Gillray cartoon depicting Pitt and Napoleon carving up the globe

1807: Slave trade is abolished aboard British ships

1811: Prince George assumes title of Prince Regent

1812: Widespread economic distress;

During the Luddite rebellion textile workers attack industrial machinery in protest of job losses

Napoleon and his allies defeated in Russia.  The French are no longer capable of invading Britain 

1814: Treaty of Paris, or "False Peace," signed on June 30th in the wake of Napoleon's abdication as emperor, ending hostilities between Britain and France for the first time since the year-long interval that succeeded the Peace of Amiens in 1802

1815: Napoleon's decisive defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th marks the end of an interval known at the Hundred Days, which began with his March escape from exile on the island of Elba.  

The Corn Laws are introduced to protect British agriculture by imposing heavy tariffs on imported grain.  Exacerbated by bad harvests, prices for native grain soared, sparking food riots across the country

1816: The Year Without a Summer.  Severe climate abnormalities caused by the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora, in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), the largest known eruption in over 1,300 years

1819: Eleven citizens are killed and hundreds injured at the “Peterloo Massacre” in Manchester, where a crowd had gathered peaceably to protest government policies and high food prices;

Historical image: Richard Carlile, painting of the Peterloo Massacre

1820: George III dies and is succeeded by George IV

1830: George IV dies and is succeeded by William IV

1832: The third version of the Reform Bill passes, extending the vote to landed men with a specific amount of property

1833: The Abolition of Slavery Act frees all slaves in the British Empire


Essential links:

Oxford English Dictionary Online

Library course reserves

Romantic Circles edition of British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism, 1793-1815

French Revolution Digital Archive

BBC History

Free audio books