ENGH 458: RS: Topics in Literary Research

ENGH 458-001: Enlightenment Literature
(Spring 2023)

07:20 PM to 10:00 PM T

Horizon Hall 3001

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Section Information for Spring 2023

The Enlightenment is the name both of a historical era in the European world (roughly the period from the late 17th century through the end of the 18th century) and of a self-consciously modern and progressive intellectual and cultural movement that took shape during this era. This intellectual and cultural movement was a powerful critical or dissident force that has—in its contest with anti-Enlightenment counter tendencies—shaped fundamental aspects of our modern world. Helping students to gain a richer, deeper understanding of the Enlightenment is thus one main objective of this course.

            But this is a course about literature as much as it is a course about the Enlightenment: so, more particularly, we’ll be interested in examining how ideas, especially new ideas, manifest themselves in literary culture and in literary works. The Enlightenment was a period of great intellectual ferment in European societies, as a new spirit of inquiry took hold of the intellectual and cultural worlds of these societies and all sorts of received ideas were questioned or critiqued. This led to reformist attention to many aspects of social and cultural life and, in turn, to challenges for literary authors on whether and how to grapple with this ferment in their works. In our own time, literary authors face a very similar challenge: how to engage contemporary intellectual-cultural-social concerns in literary works? In this course, we’ll be interested in examining the literature of the Enlightenment period with an eye to the variety of ways authors took up the intellectual debates of their time, what forms a literature of ideas and/or engagement took in this era.

            Our focus will be on the range of old and new genres that were adapted for these purposes, but that often fall to the side of our typical focus on novels, poetry, and plays. Genres such as philosophical dialogues, conversations with the dead, fables, periodical essays, fictional travels, Oriental tales, popularizing science writing, philosophy, reviews and criticism, lectures and demonstrations. We will read British writers as well as European ones (in English translation) as we explore the ways in which a new kind of literary culture emerged under the influence of the Enlightenment and as a way of propagating enlightenment.

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Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Topic-based course in research methods. Students conduct advanced research in literary studies using traditional and digital research tools and approaches. Notes: May be repeated when the topic is different. May be repeated within the degree.
Mason Core: Capstone
Specialized Designation: Research/Scholarship Intensive, Topic Varies
Recommended Prerequisite: ENGH 305 (3 credit) and 85 credit hours earned.
Schedule Type: Lecture
This course is graded on the Undergraduate Regular scale.

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