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Inventing Modernity I: The Struggle for Selfhood and the Rise of the Novel

Semester and Year FA 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1097
Section 001
Instructor Karen Hornick
Days MW
Time 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Units 4
Level U
Foundation Requirement   HUM



Since the late 1600’s or so, many European and American writers have declared themselves radically disconnected from the human past. They have called themselves “the Moderns,” and believed themselves constitutionally different (though not always better) than “the Ancients.” They feel they exist with an entirely new world order that has demanded a re-examination of all pre-existing presumptions and the invention of new forms of expression to suit the phenomena of their time: the rise of great cities, the globalization of wealth, the expansion of literacy and the extension of life expectancy. With great vigor the Moderns reconfigured a literary genre, the novel, and it became an important vehicle for exploring old questions that now seemed to require new answers: What is the relation of humans to god(s) and nature? How can a just and peaceful society be attained—and is it even necessary? am I who others tell me I am, or can I determine my own future and fate? Because the urgency of those questions—particularly the last one-- seems to linger on into the era of Instagram and Snapchat, this class will take up the task of tracing its history through a survey of what Ian Watt called “the rise of the novel” in relation to philosophical, social, and political writings that touch on issues of identity, morality, behavior, consciousness. Novel readings will be paired with relevant philosophical texts, and may include: Defoe’s  Robinson Crusoe  and Rousseau’s  Discourse on Inequality , Kant’s writings on enlightenment and beauty with Austen’s  Sense and Sensibility,  Marx on alienation and class revolution with Balzac’s  Eugenie Grandet , Baudelaire’s “Painter of Modernity” and Dickens’s  Great Expectations .



Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)