English 203

Graduate Readings: Radical Enlightenment?

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2018 Goldstein, Amanda Jo
Note new time: TTh 9:30-11 104 Dwinelle

Book List

Adorno & Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment; Burke, Edmund: Reflections on the Revolution in France; Diderot, Denis: D'Alembert's Dream, Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville; James, CLR: Black Jacobins; L'Ouverture & Nick Nesbitt: The Haitian Revolution; La Mettrie: Machine Man and Other Writings; Lucretius: De Rerum Natura (Loeb Edition); Opie, Amelie: Adeline Mowbray; Shelley, Percy: Political Poems and the Essay "A Philosophical View of Reform"; Spinoza: Ethics & Theologico-Political Treatise; Weiss, Peter: Marat/Sade; Wollstonecraft, Mary: Vindication of the Rights of Woman and The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria

Other Readings and Media

Online Texts:  William Blake,  "All Religons Are One," "There is No Natural Religion," Visions of the Daughters of Albion, and America a Prophecy. (William Blake Archive); Jacob Lawrence: The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, print series (Artstor); Denis Diderot & Jean Le Rond d'Alembert, Encylopédie (ARTFL Project)

Course Reader:  Primary poetry and prose from Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley, Olaudah Equiano, John Gabriel Stedman, John Thelwall, William Godwin, Anna Barbauld, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Immaneul Kant, Johann Gottfried Herder, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Maximillien Robespierre, and the radical press.

History, cricism and theory from Louis Althusser, Giles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Hannah Arendt, Jürgen Habermas, Karl Marx, Donna Haraway, Karen Barad, Frederick Beiser, Warren Montag, Martin Jay, Margaret Jacob, Marjorie Levinson, Jonathan Israel, Sunil Agnani, Doris Garraway, Natania Meeker, Monique Allewaert, Saidiya Hartman, Marcus Wood, Jonathan Kramnick, and Dana Simmons.


Channeling the voice of his own Enlightened despot, Kant’s famous answer to the question “What is Enlightenment?” included the chilling injunction to “argue as much as you want and about whatever you want, only obey!” In Foucault’s hands, the limit-setting project of Kantian critique yields a positively transgressive “limit-attitude,” yet Foucault is also quite clear that this ethos must turn away from “all projects that claim to be global or radical.” This seminar, on the contrary, turns toward the “radical” pretenses and partisans of Enlightenment – the heretical ontologies, clandestine associations, violent enthusiasms, trans-Atlantic crosscurrents, and hubristic linkages between philosophy and material freedom – against which the canonical statements of Enlightenment liberalism were wrought. What do radical and minoritarian versions of Enlightenment have to teach us about the stakes and limits of the renewed yearning, in contemporary political life, for something like civil, public discourse? What less familiar relationships between reason and emancipation, personal and collective freedom, revolutionary and colonizing violence, revisionary historiography and radical pedagogy, do they imagine? 

With an eye toward the fictional forms (dreams, dialogues, voyages) that often convey extreme ideas and illicit desires, and keeping in mind the partiality of the textual archive as a record of mass aspirations and casualties, this course will survey English, German, French and Carribbean expressions of the radical strains in Enlightenment, as scholars from CLR James to Louis Althusser and Srinivas Aravamudan have sought to theorize their ideas and effects. We will study Lucretius and Spinoza in their clandestine Enlightenment circulation and “new materialist” popularity; examine the spread of “Jacobin” science through dissenting societies and public entertainments; trace, with anti-colonial historiographers, the non-European agents and places that shaped Enlightenment from the inside and put its propositions to unauthorized use; and evaluate Enlightenment in Romantic radicalizations and retrospects, asking, with nineteenth-century people, to what extent ideas and their print media authored the American, French and Haitian Revolutions.

Readings will be assigned in English translation, but students are encouraged to obtain and read original language editions if they wish.

This course satisfies the Group 3 (Seventeenth through Eighteenth Century), 4 (Nineteenth Century), or 6 (Non-historical) requirement.

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