Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG445H1S L0101

ENG445H1S L0101   R1-3
Advanced Studies Group 4: Ordinary Enchantments; or, Literatures of the British Enlightenment
Prof. A. Hernandez
Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 912

Brief Description of Course: A recent critical account of eighteenth-century fiction makes the counterintuitive claim that, in contrast to the oft-told narratives of secularization and disenchantment in the period, “the Enlightenment does not bear witness to wonder’s demise, but rather its reinvention.” Indeed, among the achievements of the era’s literature is a renewed interest in marveling at the real of everyday experience. Much like the seminal philosophical texts of early modernity, in other words, fiction unsettles our knowledge of the world, making the ordinary profoundly strange. This seminar explores this claim. We will engage in a series of experimental readings in the period’s literature in order to pressure the opposition between reason and fancy that often extends even to our own time, arguing that fantastic ways of (re)thinking the ordinary were crucial to the Enlightenment and its legacy, enabling the fanciful projection of philosophical and scientific ideas that would overturn accepted paradigms. Thus, we will look to place philosophical treatises and movements in dialogue with the narratives and thought-experiments that made them possible, or indeed, resisted their insights. In the process, we’ll think about the nature of enchantment and disenchantment in the period, gain some facility with key theoretical concepts and add complexity to our account of the relation between fiction and non-fiction in the period.

Required Reading: Readings will consist of mainly works of fiction and philosophy from the eighteenth century, including several novels; representative authors may include Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Defoe, Voltaire, Berkeley, Hume, Swift, Walpole, Shelley.

First Three Authors/Texts: Most likely a trio of theoretical texts to orient us: Weber, “Science as Vocation,” Todorov, “Definition of the Fantastic,” Wittgenstein, “A Lecture on Ethics”

Method of Evaluation: Participation (20%), weekly responses (30%), annotated bibliography (20%), final research paper (30%).

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