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

Shelley: Frankenstein

Weber: The Protestant Ethic & The Spirit of Capitalism

Wollstonecraft: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman




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.