Highlights from room 1 of the SEX and GREASE final conference for this year’s English 382 enlightenment course.
Highlights from room 1 of the SEX and GREASE final conference for this year’s English 382 enlightenment course.
Before this class I had never experienced a course in which the students did the teaching. Since I was in a later group it was intriguing to learn from my peers and to hear from the presenters what they chose to be interesting about the Enlightenment. It was even more interesting to comment and listen to comments about all the topics that were discussed throughout the course. Though, us students having to bear the responsibility of teaching and grading was difficult to catch on to. It was definitely a good experience and I learned more in this course than I have in any other course. I am confident that because of the learning process I will actually retain a lot more information from this course than I have from other courses. I especially enjoyed working with Group 6 and witchcraft.
Every time I have had group projects it has always been a disaster. This wasn’t THAT bad. There was some missed communication and time restraints but we pulled it off, just like the rest of the groups!
I enjoyed the the blog post for week one the most. I think that blog post sums up what I was going to learn from the class. No matter the medium: texts, paintings, engravings etc.The Enlightenment was about letting go of tradition for the sake of tradition. It was a time when philosophers began asking the questions that still have relevance today. Almost everything around us today can be traced back in someway to the Enlightenment. Without pseudoscience there would be no science. If not for the original restrictive gender roles there would be no movement away from them today.
Most societal trends are associated with the previous trends, reflections. If we lose our nonage, forget our influences, we can understand more freely.
I think that the most valuable thing I got out of this class was a way to successfully work with others in an attempt to educate others. This wasn’t a class where the group projects was a reflection on what you learned in class but rather the group projects were HOW we all learned. I’m not gonna lie, it was very frustrating at times. That being said, I think I got a lot of out it despite how frustrating it was. As a person who has considered teaching as a career, it was wonderful practice. There was such a wonderful challenge trying to concoct a question that was edgy and thought-provoking enough that it would spur at least a single person to have a comment or an idea. Hopefully, that person would say something that spurred a thought in another student and so on and so forth. This was extremely difficult and when it worked it was extremely satisfying. It was so interesting to watch how a class of random persons hoping that the curriculum surround the “question the man” mentality we discussed on day one turn into a room full of people who worked together at every corner. We were responsible for the education of our fellow classmates and I was so happy that we all took it seriously.
I chose to talk about topic 3 for the Richardson project. I feel as though Richardson would say that art is something that should improve society. He felt that art was something that should improve man through lessons, much like the paintings we looked at by Hogarth where there was a story being told that would possibly scare the pants off of people with the morality ideas they had had. I however do not believe that the goal of art should be to better society in any way, that being said I do not believe that it should go against society either. I believe that art is something that represents an expression of the self, for example if you were really influenced by the war and you painted something that showed your emotions towards it. Richardson would tell me probably that this was dumb and tell me I was being stupid probably.
I am a huge fan of Leonardo Davinci’s work, “Mona Lisa”, as well as a billion other people on this earth I am sure. I am not a gigantic fan of the work which we studied in class “A Harlot’s Progress”, which was something that was just a wretched and sad tale of a girl who lost her life to whoredom.
Richardson would disagree with me probably and have both pieces of art switched around in his mind. He would probably talk about how the “Mona Lisa” was one that lacked anything that would give worth to the betterment of society as it pertained to the “purpose” of art. And he would also probably infer that he quite enjoyed the piece by Hogarth, probably would say that it displays correct standing in the idea of morals and how people should look at life. He would agree with the fact that the horrific display in Hogarth’s piece was one that shoed the “worst case scenario” of what would happen to a woman if she chose the path of sexual pleasure instead of staying conservative which was widely popular of that time. Like the ways that Hogarth tried to better society with his works, Richardson would go along with him and say that this is correct. Richardson seemed to believe that there was a right and wrong way to “art”, which is why he would agree with the lessons being taught in the pieces that were done by William Hogarth.
Of all the things I learned this year in this course on enlightenment is that enlightenment, and the ideals expressed by the enlightenment thinkers, can be discovered through different methods that simple study. The most important part of enlightenment is to be able to take the ideas and opinions of others and digest them to the point where you either understand why you disagree or you can integrate them into your own worldview and set of ideas. Enlightenment, as we learned throughout the course, if being able to shed your nonage and understand the world without the impediments that plagued your unenlightened ways of thinking, and the most effective way to do this is to learn about, understand, and attempt to change your own ideological prejudices so that you are open to anything but still able to differentiate between the helpful and the harmful.
Most importantly you must be able to overcome your own ego and to understand that you do not know nearly as you think you do on your own. But with the help of others, and the input of those around you, you should be able to index all of this information of ways that are optimistic but still seasoned by skepticism and self-evaluation. It is sort of akin to the way Descartes was able to place everything that he know on his metaphorical table and strip down his ego to it’s most basic form. He did this so that be could shed his former nonages and build himself up to a higher state of enlightenment that he had previously achieved. It’s kind of like when a forest becomes too crowded with decay and foliage and must be set ablaze to give way for new life to grow and become strong and powerful.
Shedding your nonage sounds like a personal journey, but the most important part of becoming enlightened is not what you can teach yourself but what others can teach you about yourself. Humans are social creatures who thrive on interaction and connections between each other. You can always learn something from anyone, regardless of whether it is the right way of doing something or the wrong way. The true key to shedding a nonage and achieving enlightenment is through the mutual respect for everyone’s ideas and their own egos, for the ego can never truly be conquered, but it can be tamed. The most effective way for the ego to be tamed is to let someone who is not controlled by it offer reflection onto the nature of itself. Human interaction. Through understand others you become must more intimately attuned to the understanding of yourself, and that is truly what shedding a nonage is all about.
Enlightenment is subjective and its pathways are as numerous as they are treacherous, but self-awareness, objectivity, interaction, skepticism, and most of all optimism are the quickest and most effective ways to navigate the minefield of our environment. Whether you decide that it exists or not, the true path to enlightenment is for you to find out, but impossible to do on your own. That’s what enlightenment is all about.
As a sophomore I took the History of Literary Theory and Criticism class and learned about Foucault and institutions and my mind was blown. I left with the knowledge that we’re never going to escape these institutions, none of us are actually ever going to be ORIGINAL; pretty depressing stuff.
This class was awesome because we read geniuses like Kant, who told us to try to shed our nonage anyway. And even if this never may be possible–to be truly original; independent of others’ influence–we still read a ton of cool stuff from the Enlightenment and tried to use it to make meaning of today. To question what was happening around us.
If institutions always define us, can we at least educate ourselves enough to shape institutions in the most positive way possible? Though we never may truly escape these institutions, we should still try our best. La Mettrie wrote “As for the rest—the willing slaves of prejudice—they can’t reach the truth any more than frogs can fly.” Even if we never TRULY reach enlightenment, at least we didn’t become the willing slaves of prejudice. We never may reach “truth,” but we’re trying.
This class wasn’t even mandatory, and people still showed up to class — every day — to debate what these smart dead guys could add to our understanding of today. And we always left class disagreeing with one another, but we were forced to think critically, for ourselves, and try to shed our nonage.
So, that’s what this class taught me. It’s a pretty important life lesson to be reminded of. Think for yourself, engage with other smart people, debate, and look to the intelligent people of the past to interpret the present (but debate with them too). We might not ever truly reach enlightenment, but that’s no reason to not try.
What should I say about this class? Well, I suppose I learned how to interact with people in a group setting under extreme duress and completely running on empty in terms of sleep. Though, this class didn’t nearly stretch me to my boundaries for sleep deprivation—that little honor belongs a to a mock trial style class that I took last semester. I definitely learned a lot about the Enlightenment. I learned about gender roles, so many gender roles, oh so many gender roles. I have found that nearly everything during the Enlightenment was in some way influenced by perceptions of gender. Witches, education, sexuality, politics, the list is endless. There is absolutely nothing I could think of that could possibly be more fitting a topic for the final conference. If I take nothing else away from this class, my interest was piqued by its focus on gender roles.
Another thing that I learned was the value of knowledge. Going back to the question posed so eloquently by Professor Gavin at the beginning of the semester, “Is ignorance bliss?” With all of the topics that we have covered in this course, I would have to say that my answer would be a firm no. On the individual level ignorance may well be bliss, but on the collective level this logic falters. Ignorance combined with differences leads to ill treatment between fellow human beings. As they spot the differences in one another, they begin to categorize; as they categorize, they feel the need to oppress, to praise their own idiosyncrasies while oppressing their brethren for their unique characteristics. Ignorance satisfies the individual, but it murders the population. Seeing ignorance in such a way, I can see how it lasted as long as it did. Someone would be hard-pressed to stop doing an activity that makes them feel good, regardless of the consequences for others. As I move on in my life, I hope to shed my own ignorance to create not only a better individual, but a better piece of my community as a whole: the world. In the end, aren’t we all just one body made up of small, unique parts?