English | Age of Johnson
L736 | 28838 | Molesworth

L736  28838 MOLESWORTH (#3)
Age of Johnson

12:20p – 3:20p W


In 1657 the Dutch scientist Christian Huygens built the first
functioning pendulum clock.  By 1680 the great British clockmaker
Thomas Tompion began manufacturing watches with balance springs.
Between these two inventions the accuracy of the mechanical clock
increased dramatically, from about fifteen minutes lost per day to
about fifteen seconds—and time became, for the first time in human
history, cheap, portable, and precise.

What was the overall effect of this immense technological
development?  Did it initiate, as scholars from E. P. Thompson to
Lewis Mumford to Stuart Sherman have suggested, an almost
Foucauldian paradigm shift, wherein time became abstract rather than
individual, rationally ordered rather than whimsical?  If so, which
cultural practices might be seen as participating in such a shift—
and which might be seen as resisting?  Using such questions as a
guide, we will examine such topics as the rise of periodicals and of
other print media, visual depictions of time, the practice of diary
keeping, the (putative) rise of the novel, philosophical
constructions of duration and identity, and religious notions of

Primary texts will include Pepys’s Diary, Locke’s Essay Concerning
Human Understanding, Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, Hume’s
Treatise of Human Nature, and Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.  Secondary
readings will include selections from Foucault, Thompson, Mumford,
and Sherman, as well as from Thomas Kuhn, Jürgen Habermas, Benedict
Anderson, Charles Taylor, Bruno Latour, Michel Serres, and Giorgio

Students will be expected to complete substantial readings in
preparation for each class meeting, participate regularly during
class discussions, give one 15-minute oral presentation, submit a
précis and a bibliography in preparation for writing a term paper,
and submit an article-length term paper.

There are no prerequisites for this class.  No interview is required
for admission.  No texts need be read in advance of the first class