Mary R O'Neil
Advanced seminar examining central issues in historiography. Emphasizes reading, discussion, and writing.
Course Title: The French Enlightenment from Montaigne to Rousseau The 18th Century represents a crucial turning point in modern history; its rejection of revealed religion and critique of traditional institutions provided intellectual ammunition for the Revolution of 1789. This will be a reading course in intellectual history, beginning with the forerunners of the French Enlightenment, Montaigne and Descartes, then focusing on the 18th C. writings of Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau. All of these thinkers wrote brilliant, original works about human nature, society and politics; if you want to read some of the most important monuments of European thought, this is the course for you.
Student learning goals
Reading major works by Montaigne, Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau
Understand broad issues in European intellectual history from 16-18th centuries.
Analyze primary documents on human nature, society and politics.
Have a small group discussion course and getting to know professor and other students.
Learn close reading of important works on intellectual history.
Write several papers on readings assigned in the course.
General method of instruction
Reading, in-class discussion of reading. Research, in-class reports on research in progress. Reading (this is a preliminary list, not finalized): Montaigne, Essays Sarah Blakewell, How to Live, or a Biography of Montaigne Descartes, Discourse on Method Voltaire, Philosophical Letters, Candide Rousseau, First and Second Discourses, Social Contract Leo Damrosch, Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Restless Genius
Since this is a Senior Seminar, it would be useful to have some course background oearly modern European history, but according to History Department policy, this is not required. History Department policy puts other restrictions on who can enroll; if you are interested in the course, please discuss any such situations with Professor O'Neil directly
Class assignments and grading
Weekly response papers on assigned readings. Two short papers, one Montaigne & one on Descartes or Voltaire One longer paper on a topic that arises out of course readings, especially Rousseau (either a paper on Rousseau or his relationships with other thinkers).
Class participation 20% (including weekly response papers) Shorter papers (two papers 3-5 pages) 20% each Longer paper (10-12 pages) 40%