This course examines and compares significant works of visual art, literature and philosophy produced in Europe during the eighteenth century. In the midst of radical changes in political institutions and social life, works of creative imagination such as paintings, novels and speculative essays helped to define and re-define the nature of “human nature.” Although sometimes called an age of reason, this was equally an age of feeling and belief, and rational approaches to the improvement of human life went hand in hand with confidence in the truth of the emotions. An experimental attitude charges much of the religious, political and philosophical writing of the period, and “thought experiments” of various kinds were carried out in the subject matter and technical innovations of engravings, paintings and architectural designs. As we shall see, the idea that individual liberty should not be constrained by established doctrine is a major feature of intellectual and artistic discourse in this period, and one that was closely associated with the idea that human beings are fundamentally creatures of nature, subject to the laws of physics and driven by passions and appetites. Readings include philosophical tracts, novels, poetry, and art criticism by Winckelmann, Diderot and others. We will study paintings by Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze, Chardin, Joseph Wright, Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Angelica Kauffman, among others.
Category for Concentration Distribution: D. Europe and the United States, 3. Early Modern,
4. Modern and Contemporary
- Descartes, René, Discourse on Method and Related Writings, trans. Desmond M. Clark, Penguin Books, 1999.
- Defoe, Daniel, Robinson Crusoe, ed. John Richetti, Penguin Books, 2001.
- Pope, Alexander, Essay on Man and Other Poems, Dover Publications, 1994.
- Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, A Discourse on Inequality, trans. Maurice Cranston, Penguin Books, 1984.
- Voltaire, Candide and Other Stories, trans. Roger Pearson, Oxford University Press, 1998..
- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. Michael Hulse, Penguin Books, 1989.
- Wollstonecraft, Mary, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, revised ed., Penguin Books, 2004.
- Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, Penguin Books, 1992.
- Outram, Dorinda, The Enlightenment, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 2005.
2 short papers; 2 slide-essay exams; 1 term paper (10 to 15 pages)
seminar, meets 1 ½ hours twice per week