Literature and History

L480 — Fall 2018

Linda Charnes
Lindley Hall 415
Days and Times
11:15A-12:30P TR
Course Description

Topic: “From Subjects to Citizens: Transatlantic Literature from Divine Right to the Declaration of Independence"

This seminar will discern the gradual emergence of modern idea of the sovereign individual, the person as sole "owner" of him or herself. We'll begin with texts from the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther's influence on the idea of the individual 'in charge' of his own soul, to the decline and fall of the Divine Right of Kings. We will track a slow shift from regarding entire populations as "subjects" and as property (including women) to the emergence of philosophies and political ideas that culminate in the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, yet still lag behind with respect to the social and economic legacies of slavery. From Shakespeare's plays Richard II, Henry V, and The Tempest, we'll go to selections from the work of John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, Aphra Behn, Thomas Paine, Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Jefferson, Susanna Rowson (who wrote the first American "bestseller" novel), Adam Smith, and Ben Franklin, and (if there's time) some Freud and the ideas of his successors. How did transatlantic literature, political theology, psychology and philosophy transform the subjects of monarchy (and its evil twin, Tyranny) into individuals who participate, to greater and lesser degrees, in arguably democratic processes? How do these discourses of Western Culture form the amalgam of how people come to regard, and experience themselves, as persons who matter? We'll consider not just what forms this viewpoint but what contradicts and complicates it as well.

Students will prepare a brief presentation on a topic of their choice (which may include early slave narratives, colonial texts, or other literature not on the syllabus), and write a twelve to fifteen page final seminar paper. There will be lots of discussion in class, all political viewpoints will be respected (disagreement is built into the reading selections themselves) and attendance and participation will count for 20% of your course grade. A blog will also be set up for weekly discussion notes.

Interested in this course?

The full details of this course are available on the Office of the Registrar website.

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