English 382: The Enlightenment
Fall 2013  TTh 2:50 to 4:05
Humanities Classroom Building 402
Professor Michael Gavin

Week 1 — SOCIAL CONTRACT: (8/22)

Introduction; review course contract

Week 2 — ENLIGHTENMENT: (8/27, 8/29)

The Matrix
Kant, “What is Enlightenment?”
Assignment: Find Your Nonage

Week 3 — FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: (9/3, 9/5)

John Milton, “Areopagitica” (selections)
Lawrence Lessig, “The Future of Ideas” (chap. 1 & 2)
Assignment: Copyrights and Copywrongs

Week 4 — Group 1: Children and the Enlightenment: (9/10, 9/12)
John-Mark, Hunter, Rachel, Erik

Tuesday: Locke, Gray, & Blake
Thursday: Children and Media
Assignment: Children and Enlightenment

Week 5 — Group 2: Race and the Enlightenment (9/17, 9/19)
Amy, Sarah, Daquan, Trey

Tuesday: Omi and Winant, “Racial Formation.”
Thursday: Olaudah Equiano, Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano.
Assignment: Equiano and Racial Formation.

Week 6 — Group 3: Government Secrecy, The King’s Cabinet Opened (9/24, 9/26)
Adam, Tom, Miles

Tuesday: The King’s Cabinet Opened and The English Civil War
Thursday: The Edward Snowden Case
Assignment: TBA.

The focus of our project will be to look at the idea of government exposé in relation to the Enlightenment. The idea of the government working behind the backs of its own citizens is a disturbing one; yet, it is extremely common. With ideas of Wikileaks and Edward Snowden fresh in our minds, it is difficult to imagine a time when this kind of exposure was uncommon. However, we want to look at political exposure during the Enlightenment and let the class ponder its implications.

We would like to show an early example of this kind of uncovering of the government’s secret machinations. For our main example, we will use The King’s Cabinet Opened, a packet of letters written by the King of England published by Thomas Fairfax in 1645. The letters comprised conversations between the King and Queen that portrayed the latter as having enormous influence over the country. At a time when England was in the middle of a civil war, the French Catholic Queen pushed the King to give special treatment to those of her denomination. The letters will give the class an idea of how important this uncovering was to British subjects of the day. It created the notion that the government was not on the side of the people.

Political exposure is a powerful thing. It tears away barriers between the rulers and the ruled. How does the dissemination of these letters fit in with some of the concepts that Kant and Milton proposed in our previous class readings? The idea of easily accessible information was important to the Enlightenment. We would like the class to look at the importance of transparency and see both its positive and negative aspects. Should deeds done behind closed doors be made apparent to everyone?

Some questions for the class to think about:

  • Do you believe it is proper for the government to operate behind its peoples’ backs?
  • Is this type of exposure necessary in modern times, or do you believe that there are some things that should be hidden from the public?
  • How do you think The King’s Cabinet Opened would have affected the public’s sense of trust in the government at the time of the First English Civil War?
  • What are some of the ethnicity and gender issues that are also important to the “scandal” of these letters?
  • Milton believes that books can be dangerous and powerful because they allow people to see into a man’s soul. Yet, this is exactly what Fairfax is going for in publishing these letters. How effective are these letters at demonstrating the King’s bias against his own people?

Week 7: (10/01, 10/03)

No class meetings.

Week 8 — Group 4 Rene Descartes: (10/08, 10/10)
Katie, Matt, Madison, Jody

Tuesday: Descartes, Meditations
Thursday: Ted Underwood, “Can Mining a Million Books Tell Us Anything New?” (Public Lecture, Thomas Cooper Library Hollings Program Room, 3-5pm)

Assignments: Underwood Discussion Sheet; Descartes / la Mettrie Essay

Week 9: (10/15)

Tuesday: La Mettrie / Review for midterm

Week 10 — Group 5: Gender and Femininity (10/22, 10/24)
Ja’Nae, Brogan, Savanna, Brock

Tuesday: Judith Butler, Imitation
Thursday: Jonathan Swift, “The Lady’s Dressing Room,” “A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed“; and Marge Piercy, “Barbie Doll.”

Week 11 — Group 6: Witchcraft and the Supernatural (10/29, 10/31)
Daria, Haley, Mary Kate, Robert

Tuesday: Readings on Witchcraft and Superstition
Thursday: Scaife, True Ghost Story.
Assignment: TBA.

Week 12 — Group 7: Epistolary Enlightenments (11/5, 11/7)
Christianna, Andie, Charlie, Robert

Readings individually paginated. Follow “Readings” link above.

Week 13 — Group 8: Art in the Enlightenment (11/12, 11/14)
Tommy, Samantha, Lauren, Hannah

Tuesday: Jonathan Richardson’s “Whole Art of Criticism.”
Thursday: Makala, “Art in the Library.” MEETING IN HOLLINGS LIBRARY

Week 14 — Group 9: Music and the Enlightenment (11/19, 11/21)
Juliette, Richard, Jeff

Tuesday: The Baroque in England and Dryden, “Alexander’s Feast”
Thursday: English Ballads

Assignment: Rap & Balladry

Week 15: (11/26)


Week 16: (12/03, 12/05)

Student presentation, conference prep

DECEMBER 11, 12:30pm “Sex & G.R.E.A.S.E.: Undergraduate Conference”


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