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Enlightenment Subjects and Subjections

Semester and Year FA 2016
Course Number IDSEM-UG1831
Section 001
Instructor Andrea Gadberry
Days T
Time 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, EARLY


Same as COLIT-UA 141.


This semester, we will read broadly in literary, philosophical, and political works of the Enlightenment as we ask how this period understood what it meant to be human – and what it meant to be a human in relationship to others. Our course will begin by examining works that let us ask how authors of the period conceived of "man" and world. Looking at these classic texts (which will move us from skeptical philosophy to theories of feeling to proposals that we consider humans as machines), we will then turn to works that unsettle this category of “man” and allow us to consider other possibilities: citizen, foreigner, woman, and slave. How might these works complicate how we understand personhood? How do the Enlightenment ideals of reason and freedom fare when confronted with subjects neither considered to have reason nor granted freedom? We’ll finish our semester with an eye toward figures who critique Enlightenment reason and represent their own subjectivity in autobiographical texts. Primary texts may include David Hume,  An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding , Adam Smith,  Theory of Moral Sentiments , Mary Wollstonecraft,  A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , Voltaire,  Candide , Montesquieu,  Persian Letters , Olaudah Equiano,  The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano… , and Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  Confessions .

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)