History 280B: The Problem of Enlightenment: Intellectual and Cultural Histories

Instructor: Professors Carla Hesse and Jonathan Sheehan

Arguably, in the past 25 years, the Enlightenment has effectively collapsed as a set of philosophical, political, and social prescriptions. It has, at the same time, become far more various, plural, and local in its historical character. This course proposes to take up the problem of Enlightenment as a topic of historical research in this post-national moment, and aims both to survey recent historiography and to identify directions for promising future work. The course is planned as a set of conversations, both methodological and topical. It will be organized around five significant themes: 1) cosmopolitanism and transnationalism; 2) ideas and goods; 3) theories and pratices of political community; 4) orthodoxy and heterodoxy; and 5) bodies, phenomenal and ideal. In all cases, we will focus both on the intellectual and philosophical tradition that has long characterized the Enlightenment and the socio-cultural institutions and practices that have traditionally put this period at the threshold of our modernity. The course will be chronologically broad, ranging from the late seventeenth century to the revolutionary era. It will also be geographically inclusive: while centered in continental Europe, students can expect to range from the British Atlantic to points in the far east, the southern hemisphere and beyond.

  • Elective Requirement: This course fulfills an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.