Fall 2007

SOCS 641
The Enlightenment and the Birth of the Modern World

Printy,Michael O.

09/10/2007 - 12/14/2007
Monday 06:30 PM - 09:00 PM

The Enlightenment is said to have given birth to democracy, human rights, feminism, emancipation, and secularism--in short, to the characteristic strivings of Western modernity. Yet it has also at times been attacked for paving the way for totalitarianism, racist universalism, and modern bureaucratic genocide. In this course we will study key texts and ideas from the Enlightenment, placing them in their historical and social context of the eighteenth century. We will look at revolutions in thinking about history, economy, society, crime and punishment, government, and religion. A key theme will be the encounter of Enlightenment thought with popular religious practice and the persistence of traditional religious institutions. How did the mind of the Enlightenment seek to shape the future of European society? If traditional religious institutions and political structures were to be superseded by secular culture and forms of governance, how was virtue to be preserved in a modern commercial society? How did the Enlightenment react to its successes and, more importantly, its failures? Finally, we will look at a few key interpretations of the Enlightenment in recent times. Did Enlightenment thinkers refashion Christianity in their construction of a "Heavenly City" or were they agents of the "Rise of Modern Paganism"? Was the Enlightenment exclusively a Western phenomenon? How are conceptualizations of the Enlightenment today being employed in debates about the nature of modernity and pressing questions about religion, secularism and human rights both home and abroad?

Primary sources include John Locke, David Hume, Rousseau, Kant, Beccaria, Gibbon, Adam Smith, Voltaire, Diderot, Mary Wollstonecraft. Secondary readings include Dorinda Outram, R. Darnton, P. Gay, J. Israel, J.G.A. Pocock.

Students will be graded on class participation, reading response papers, a final paper and presentation.

For the first class meeting, students should have read Dorinda Outram's The Enlightenment (second edition preferred, depending on cost and availability).

Michael Printy (B.A. Yale University; M.A., Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is visiting faculty in the history department. He specializes in European intellectual history, and is the author of Enlightenment and the Creation of German Catholicism (Cambridge University Press, 2009) and co-editor of A Companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe (Brill, 2010). He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, German History, The Journal of the History of Ideas, and History and Theory. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is currently working on a book on religion and philosophy in the German Protestant Enlightenment.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:

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