Courses available in French


La poétique de la durée s’efforce d’apaiser l’hier fiévreux, de tramer ce lointain devenir.

— Glissant

French 118A: Eighteenth Century Literature — What is Enlightenment? (“W”)


See description.

Course Description:

At the end of the eighteenth century Immanuel Kant tried to answer the question: What is Enlightenment?  He came up with this answer: The Enlightenment was the time during which and the process by which human beings finally emerged from their own self-imposed childhood.   The Enlightenment meant shaking off traditional authorities– kings, priests, fathers—and refusing to acknowledge the authority of handed-down ideas.  Everything was up for grabs: ideas about politics, religion, sex, the family, and the nation.   Both the content of beliefs and practices and the methods by which concepts  and practices were formed came up for scrutiny as writers and thinkers turned their studies away from the supernatural and the metaphysical toward the natural, the physical, and the social.  Moreover, enlightenment was a public process.  Reading, thinking, writing, criticizing was something no one person could accomplish by him or herself  “Dare to know” was the watchword Kant retrospectively assigned to the readers and writers of the Enlightenment.  Recently, this heroic account of the Enlightenment has come under attack.  For Horkheimer and Adorno, the Enlightenment was the origin of the kind of instrumental reason that lead to fascism.    More recent scholars accuse the Enlightenment of having constructed a “universal man” who is nothing but a cover for white, western, male power.  In this class we will try to decide for ourselves.  We will read many of the classic works by authors such as Montesquieu, Rousseau, Diderot, and Voltaire as well as plays and novels that treat freedom and slavery, love and sexuality.  We will also read  secondary works that help explain the social and cultural contexts for these radical developments.

Prerequisites: French 102 or consent of Instructor. Course conducted in French.

Additional information:
This course satisfies one “Literature” or one “Elective” in the French major; satisfies one Historical Period requirement in French major. Satisfies L & S breadth requirement in Arts and Literature. Priority enrollment for declared French majors.  This course is designated as “W” (writing intensive) in the French major.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes