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Pope's Ethical Thinking

Chatterton Lecture on Poetry, delivered by Dr Christopher Tilmouth, on 10 May 2011 (venue: The British Academy), as part of the British Academy's 2011 Literature Week.

Download lecture handout of texts discussed (PDF file).

Alexander Pope discerned in his verse satires 'more of morality than wit', yet his work has been thought antipathetic to some of 18th-century Britain's most enduring strains of ethical reflection. Reappraising Pope's often noted complicity with those whom he otherwise attacked, this lecture asks what part Shaftesbury's polite wit, Mandeville's cynicism, and Augustan sentimentalism played in the poetry of England's greatest satirist. What, too, can Pope teach us about the relationship between literature and ethics?

About the speaker
Christopher Tilmouth is a University Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of English, Cambridge. His research focuses on conections between literature and philosophy both now and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His recent and forthcoming publications include articles on Shakespeare's idea of conscience, Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, John Milton's poetry and prose, and the English reception of Descartes' philosophy, and he is also the author of Passion's Triumph over Reason: A History of the Moral Imagination from Spenser to Rochester. He is currently working on a book on Enlightenment literature and ethics.

More about the Chatterton Lectures on Poetry