The Libertine Moment

Subject ENGL40004 (2011)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2011.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 4 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2011.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2
Total Time Commitment: 120
Prerequisites: Admission to the postgraduate diploma or fourth year honours in English.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.

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Justin Clemens

Subject Overview:

This subject examines libertinism as a social and literary formation at the court of Charles II (1660-1685) through the exemplary figure of the Earl of Rochester. An influential courtier and nobleman as well as a witty and obscene poet, Rochester's scandalous life and celebrated death established his period as the libertine moment. We will examine a range of Rochester's own writings as well as his dramatic incarnation as the "restoration rake", in the plays of Wycherley and Etherege. By contrast Dryden and Behn illustrate the development in this period of the "professional" writer in their production of a large output of commercially successful writings across many genres. We will cover the philosophical pretexts of libertinism in the work of Hobbes as well as two principal historical moments (the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the events of the Popish plot and Exclusion crisis from 1679-81) where libertinism takes on a specific political force. Students who successfully complete this subject will be familiar with the central philosophical, political and literary forms of libertinism and will have learnt how to analyse key literary texts by Rochester, Dryden and Behn in the context of a range of Restoration writing.


On completion of this subject students will:

  • have an understanding of the social and historical context of libertinism in England from 1660-1688;
  • have an understanding of the main genres of libertine writing, especially theatrical and poetic;
  • be adept in analysis and interpretation of key libertine texts by Rochester, Dryden and Behn; and
  • will understand the main critical debates relating to political and aesthetic developments in the late seventeenth century.
Assessment: An essay of 5000 words 100% (due in the examination period). Students are required to attend a minimum of 75% of classes in order to qualify to have their written work assessed. All required written work must be submitted in order to pass the subject.
Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available.

  • Love-Letters between a Nobleman and His Sister (A Behn), Penguin
  • Selected Poems (J Dryden), Penguin
  • Poems (Rochester), Blackwell
  • The Broadview Anthology of Restoration and Early Eighteenth-Century Drama, Broadview
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject will:

  • be able to apply new research skills and critical methods to a field of inquiry;
  • be able to develope critical self-awareness and shape and strengthen persuasive arguments; and
  • be able to communicate arguments and ideas effectively and articulately, both in writing and to others.
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Studies
English and Theatre
Renaissance and Early Modern Studies

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