HISTART 342-001

Reason and Passion in the 18th Century

G026 Tisch
MW 1:00-2:30pm
3 Credit Lecture

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 philosophical tracts, novels, poetry, 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.

Course requirements: 2 short papers, 2 slide-essay exams, 1 term paper (10 to 15 pages)

Intended audience: upper-level undergraduates

Class format: lecture and discussion, meets 1 ½ hours twice per week

Textbooks (a modest coursepack of photocopied readings will also be required):
Descartes, René, Discourse on Method, trans. Desmond M. Clark, Penguin Books, 1999. ISBN: 0140446990
Defoe, Daniel, Robinson Crusoe, ed. John Richetti, Penguin Books, 2001. ISBN: 0141439823
Pope, Alexander, Essay on Man and Other Poems, Dover Publications, 1994. ISBN: 0486280535
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, A Discourse on Inequality, trans. Maurice Cranston, Penguin Books, 1984. ISBN: 0140444394
Voltaire, Candide and Other Stories, trans. Roger Pearson, Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780192834263
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, The Sorrows of Young Werther, trans. Michael Hulse, Penguin Books, 1989. ISBN: 014044503X
Wollstonecraft, Mary, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, revised ed., Penguin Books, 2004. ISBN: 0143037507
Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, revised edition, Penguin Books, 2003. ISBN: 9780141439471
Outram, Dorinda, The Enlightenment, 2nd ed., Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN: 0521546818.

Estimated cost of materials: $100 or more.

HISTART category for concentration distributions: D. Europe and the US, 3. Early Modern, 4. Modern and Contemporary.