History J300-22548 offers an introduction to the cultural, social, and intellectual history of Europe, c. 1680 to 1789. This period has often been called “The Age of Enlightenment” and a handful of well-known writers—Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Kant—have been treated as the era's human embodiments. 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.
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 100-150 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. This is a demanding course; it is my hope that it will also be an especially rewarding one.
Final grades will be based on class participation (20%); two drafts of a very short (3-4 pages) paper (each draft counts 7.5%); your grading of a paper (5%); a short (7-8 pages) paper on an assigned topic (20%); and a longer paper (12-14 pages) on a topic to be devised by each student (40%). (syllabus in pdf format)
Syllabus of Classes
Ways of Knowing
Introductions: What do we know?
Ancients, Moderns, History, Enlightenment
How do we know? How did they know?
What did they know?
Sensing and Believing
Reasons to be Faithful
Truth and Miracles
Nature, Catastrophe, Religion
Knowing the World
Human Nature and the Science of Societies
Ancient and Modern Empires
Propensities and Property
Feb. 23 no class today
Enlightened States and Benighted Peoples
Decadence, Regeneration: Poles and Jews
Private Lives on a Public Stage
Writing and Research Workshop
Learning to Know
Is there a Social History of the Enlightenment?
The Art of being Enlightened
Letters and their Writers
Goethe, Werther, and their Readers
Sorrows of an Epistolary Self
Civilizing Processes: Discipline and Education
Crimes and Punishment
Education and Sex Education
April 26: no class as a group; if you would like to have one final meeting with me about your paper, please make an appointment (10-12; 1-2:30).