REVOLUTION AND THE LIMITS OF REASON
Conceived as a direct continuation of the fall semester, the spring offering of First-year Seminar begins with the eventful culmination of Enlightenment thinking, and then explores the complex and ambivalent aftermath throughout the 19th Century, with a few highly selective steps taken into the modern era. We will start with texts by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke, all of which relate to two major political crises at the end of the 18th Century, The American and French Revolutions. The cataclysmic violence of the latter, and the subsequent rise of Napoleon, along with the growth of modern industry and imperial aspirations in Europe, led to a period of disillusionment and an even more radical questioning of the newly established bourgeois values. Despite the fact that two notoriously difficult German thinkers, Kant and Hegel, may have given rational idealism its firmest footing, as the 19th Century progressed, whether through romantic art and literature (Goya, Blake, Shelley and Emerson), the socio-economic criticism of Marx, or the later philosophy of Nietzsche, the legacy of the Enlightenment, the ironic consequences of an overconfident intellectualism, could be met with a sometimes withering critique. At the same time, Darwin's theories of evolutionary development, published at mid-century, pose a new perspective on the human species and its relationship to nature. We will represent modernity with three writers whose work directly relate to issues raised in the fall semester: Freud, who poses a revolutionary theory of the mind; Lu Xun, who, as a member of a generation often referred to as The Chinese Enlightenment, specifically questions the Confucian tradition; and Chinua Achebe, who is considered one of the founding figures of post-colonial African fiction. There will be supplementary events including guest lectures, films, panel discussions, readings and performances every Monday at 4:30 PM.
Special Note: All students will be required to read The Age of Revolution: 1789 - 1848 by Eric Hobsbawm over the January Intersession.
Other texts include:
Achebe: Things Fall Apart
Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France
Darwin: The Origin of Species
Dostoevsky: Notes from the Underground
Emerson: On Experience
Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents
Hegel: Lordship and Bondage & Absolute Freedom and Terror
Kant: Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals
Lu Xun: Selected Stories
Marx: The Communist Manifesto
Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil
Paine: The Rights of Man
Rousseau: The Origin of Inequality
Weber: The Protestant Ethic & The Spirit of Capitalism
Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
REGISTRATION FOR FIRST YEAR SEMINAR:
You will receive a separate registration card for First Year Seminar on which you will list your top five choices. We will place you in the highest available option, and send a note in campus mail before Friday, December 5th letting you know which section you are in. Each seminar is limited to 15 students. Please be sure to read the entire coursebook before making your choice, paying particular attention to the schedule of classes you are hoping to take.