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The British 18th Century Enlightenment

ENGL 104.401
instructor(s):
MW 10-11:00

The European Enlightenment is usually considered a largely French phenomenon, promoted by radical writers from the mid-18th century onwards such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu and others (“les philosophes,” as they are called). But, in fact, British philosopher and scientists, as well as poets, novelists, and authors from the later 17th and early to mid 18th century were in the vanguard of Enlightenment as they developed new rational ideas and methods in science, philosophy, and literature, exploring but also examining critically the basically secular and materialistic approach to experience that created the modern western world. We will study this distinctively British phenomenon, which was more moderate and less radical but more influential in many ways than the French version. By reading some British and French (in English translations) authors we will seek to understand the differences between these two versions of Enlightenment and older ways of understanding. Among the authors to be studied, some in whole works, some in shorter excerpts: Locke, Defoe, Swift, Pope, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Johnson, Gibbon, Goldsmith, Boswell, Voltaire, Richardson, Sade, Hume, Rousseau, and others.   Three papers (4-5 pages long) and a final examination.