English 203

Graduate Readings: Radical Enlightenment

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2021 Goldstein, Amanda Jo
W 2-5 Zoom

Book List

Adorno and Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment; Büchner, Georg: Danton's Death; Carpentier, Alejo: The Kingdom of this World; Diderot: Supplement to the Voyage of Bouganville and D'Alembert's Dream; Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Life; James, CLR: Toussaint Louverture; La Mettrie: Machine Man and Other Writings; Lucretius: De Rerum Natura; Mee and Fallon, eds.: Romanticism and Revolution: A Reader; Spinoza: Ethics; Sterne, Lawrence: A Sentimental Journey; Thelwall, John: The Daughter of Adoption

Other Readings and Media

To be distributed through the course website:

Primary poetry, prose and theory, including: Blake, William, Visions of the Daughters of Albion; John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative of a Five Years' Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam; Immanuel Kant, "An Answer to the Question, What is Enlightenment?"; Jean Le Rond D'Alembert, "Preliminary Discourse" to the Encyclopedia; Erasmus Darwin, The Economy of Vegetation; J.G. Herder, "On the Sensation and Cognition of the Human Soul,"; Eliza Haywood, "Fantomina, or, Love in a Maze"; Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract; exerpts from the 1790s pamphlet wars (Price, Burke, Paine, Wolstonecraft) and the ultra-radical press.

History, cricism and theory, including: Louis Althusser, Giles Deleuze, Michel Foucault, Karl Marx, Hannah Arendt, Sylvia Wynter, Hortense Spillers, Jürgen Habermas, Donna Haraway, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Michael Warner, Saidiya Hartman, Warren Montag, Margaret Jacob, Jonathan Israel, Sunil Agnani, Doris Garraway, Natania Meeker, Monique Allewaert, Marcus Wood, Dana Simmons, Srinivas Aravamudan, Susan Buck-Morss, Jan Golinski, Adom Getachew,





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 some 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.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

Back to Semester List