In this class we will explore the Enlightenment as a site of contestation on two levels: as a lively community that developed in France in the eighteenth century and thrived on debate about its own practices and about the world in which it operated; and as the very controversial site of current debates on the origins of modernity and its influence on the world in which we live. While this is a course primarily in the intellectual history of eighteenth-century France, it is set in the context of two cultures and societies on which the Enlightenment sheds light: that of France before the French Revolution and our own. Through primary source readings, discussions, and lectures, students will gain an understanding of the French Enlightenment as part of and a critical response to French society, politics, and culture before the French Revolution, including education, social order, the family, gender relations, colonialism, and consumer society. Through readings in secondary sources students will be introduced to current debates about the Enlightenment. Students will be asked to think about the ways in which the Enlightenment shapes the modern world and the contribution of the Enlightenment to their own way of thinking.
Evaluation will be based on essays, a term paper, and class participation.
There are no prerequisites for enrolling in this course, and students interested in enrolling under FRENCH 343 do not need to take a French placement exam.