Germanic Languages | Historical Study of Germanic Literature II
G573 | 27194 | J. Turk

Foundations of the Modern World: The Eighteenth Century

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

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)
Rousseau, Lettre à d Alembert sur les spectacles, excerpts from
different writings
Schiller, Über die Ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe
von Briefen (excerpts)
Shaftesbury, A letter on Enthusiasm