Reason and Passion in the Eighteenth Century
270 Tappan Hall
TuTh 2:30-4:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

This course examines and compares significant works of visual art, literature and philosophy produced in Europe during the eighteenth century. In the midst of radical changes in political institutions and social life, works of creative imagination such as paintings, novels and speculative essays helped to define and re-define the nature of "human nature." Although sometimes called an age of reason, this was equally an age of feeling and belief, and rational approaches to the improvement of human life went hand in hand with confidence in the truth of the emotions. An experimental attitude charges much of the religious, political and philosophical writing of the period, and "thought experiments" of various kinds were carried out in the subject matter and technical innovations of engravings, paintings and architectural designs. As we shall see, the idea that individual liberty should not be constrained by established doctrine is a major feature of intellectual and artistic discourse in this period, and one that was closely associated with the idea that human beings are fundamentally creatures of nature, subject to the laws of physics and driven by passions and appetites. Readings include Descartes' Discourse on Method, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Pope's Essay on Man, Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women, Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, and art criticism by Winckelmann, Diderot and others. We will study paintings by Boucher, Fragonard, Greuze, Chardin, Joseph Wright, Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun and Angelica Kauffman, among others. Estimated cost of materials: $100 or more but less than $150. D. 3, 4