Comparative Literature | Foundations of the Modern World: The Eighteenth Century
C529 | 28822 | Prof. Johannes Turk


TR 2:30-3:45
meets with GER-G 573


This course examines some of the core concepts and narrations through
which the eighteenth century redefined the position and the experience
of man in the world. After the dominance of theological metaphysics
ended, universal concepts needed a new fundament. The course will also
serve as an introduction to major authors and problems of this period.
How did representation come to define what it means to know something
about the world? How could aesthetics ennoble perception and validate
an experience considered marginal? How can the contribution of each of
the five senses to knowledge be determined? Why should pity be
considered a virtue? How did the idea of education define what it
means to lead a human life? How did theater become such a prominent
scene where education took place? And why was life increasingly seen
as defined by sensibility? These are some of the questions we will
discuss in nuanced readings and discussions.

The course will explore these questions in close readings of major
texts of the German, French and English traditions and develop the
structural tensions underlying the shifts at the foundation of the
modern world. The course will be held in English. Students in Germanic
Studies are asked to read all German texts in the original language.

Selected readings ordered at the bookstore in German and English (not
finalized):
Goethe, Die Leiden des jungen Werther
Goethe, Wilhelm Meister
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Diderot, Le Neveu de Rameau
Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft
Lessing, Laokoon
Schiller, Dom Carlos
Voltaire, Candide

Texts and excerpts available on e-reserve (not finalized):
D’Alembert, Introduction into the Encyclopédie
Descartes, Meditationes (excerpts)
Diderot, Reve d’Alembert, Lettre sur les Aveugles
Herder, Plastik, Über den Ursprung der Sprache (excerpts)
Hume, On the Standard of Taste
Leibniz, Théodicée (excerpts)
Lessing, Hamburgische Dramaturgie (excerpts)