History | The Enlightenment? Culture and Knowledge in 18th Century Europe
J300 | 9867 | Spang


Above class COLL intensive writing section
Above class open to undergraduates only
A portion of the above class reserved for majors

The period from 1680 to 1789 in European history is often called
the “Age of Enlightenment” and a handful of well-known writers—
Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Kant—are often treated as human
embodiments of that era.  In this course, we will read those authors
and many others, as we think about the varieties of knowledge
available in (and about) eighteenth-century Europe.  Two major
themes will help to structure our reading: (1) the relationship
between ideas, institutions, and practices and (2) the interplay of
change and continuity, broadly conceived.  Both are crucial
questions for any historian but they were also vital for eighteenth-
century writers, who often considered their own era in relation to
some historic or mythic past and who wondered how best to provoke
(or, reverse) change.

Among the specific topics we are likely to cover (subject to
change): skepticism and miracles; discipline and education;
reactions to the Lisbon earthquake; enlightened absolutism and
the “republic” of letters; science and sensibility; human nature and
national regeneration.

This is an upper-level intensive writing course, in which we will
think carefully about both the reading and writing of history.  Our
weekly readings will average 100-120 pages, and will be a mix of
eighteenth-century materials (primary sources) and historians’
interpretations (secondary sources).  Students should be prepared to
present their own work and to comment constructively on each others’
writing.

Final grades will be based on class participation, two papers (7-8
pages) on assigned topics, and a longer paper (12-14 pages) on a
topic to be devised by each student.