Comparative Literature 215

Early Modern Literature and Philosophy

The early modern period has long been recognized as one of enormous transformations in the literature, thought, and culture of Europe. Many of those have been linked to the emergence of the category of the modern “subject” and have been regarded as playing a formative role in the long history of modernity. And yet many accounts of the formation of modernity fail to explain the emergence of subjectivity across the many fields in which it is implicated.

This seminar will aim at an exploration of the conditions of possibility underlying these phenomena, focusing at once on historico-philosophical models and on cross-cultural materials. We will consider evidence from the domains of literature (prose fiction, drama, lyric poetry), politics, philosophy, the essay, as well as materials relating to the visual arts. Emphasis will be on readings from Descartes, Montaigne, Cervantes, Machiavelli, Shakespeare, More, Erasmus, and others. Students will be required to work in original texts corresponding to their literatures of emphasis. A final paper and one in-class presentation will be required.


1. For seminar participation: a. All participants are expected to attend each week with the reading completed and prepared to enter into substantial discussion. b. Each participant will be assigned leadership for one week of readings and will be expected to lead a discussion on the material.

2. For individual papers: each participant will be expected to present a paper of approx. 20 pages by the week following the last class (due date: May 10, 2010). Students presenting papers after the due date may be eligible to receive an Incomplete if they have arranged for an alternate submission date. Papers should be prepared following either MLA or University of Chicago style guidelines. Papers may be submitted electronically as attachments to [email protected], or in hard copy to my mailbox at the Townsend Center: 220 Stephens Hall (n.b.: the Center closes at 5 pm daily).


Grading will be based 70% on weekly performance (including the week of assigned leadership) and participation and 30% on the final paper. No passing grades will be assigned unless both elements are in the passing range.

CL 215 Syllabus

Jan. 25: Introduction

Feb. 1 (re-schedule): Historico-philosophical frameworks for the problem of modernity
(readings from Blumenberg, Löwith, Habermas, Horkheimer and Adorno, Cascardi, Toulmin; all photocopies available in the course reader)

Feb. 8: Descartes and the philosophical discourse of modernity: carried forward further readings from Feb. 1, adding Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, Lachterman from The Ethics of Geometry and Harries from Infinity and Perspective (both excerpts in the course reader)

[Feb. 15 Washington’s Birthday: University Holiday]

Feb. 22: Descartes: Discourse on Method, Meditations on First Philosophy, (carried forward from Feb, 8), adding Passions of the Soul

Mar. 1 (re-schedule): Montaigne: Essais

Mar. 8: Cervantes, I (“Curioso Impertinente” from Don Quijote, I)

Mar. 15 Cervantes, II (“Coloquio de los perros” from Novelas ejemplares)

[Mar. 22 Spring Break]

Mar. 29: Machiavelli: Il Principe

April 5: Erasmus: Praise of Folly

Apr. 5: More: Utopia

Apr. 12: Rebhorn, Renaissance Debates on Rhetoric (excerpts) and Grassi, Rhetoric as Philosophy: The Humanist Tradition (excerpt)

April. 12: Shakespeare, Sonnets; Fineman, Shakespeare’s Perujred Eye (photocopy in co9urse reader)

April 19: Shakespeare, Hamlet

April 29: Return to reassessment of historico-philosophical frameworks from Feb. 1

May 3: Conclusion

Descartes, Rene
Selected Philosophical Writings
Paperback: 249 pages
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 26, 1988)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0521358124
ISBN-13: 978-0521358125

Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quijote
Paperback: 880 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.; 2 edition (January 17, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 039397281X
ISBN-13: 978-0393972818

Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quijote de la Mancha
Hardcover: 664 pages
Publisher: Edimat Libros (November 1, 2007)
Language: Spanish
ISBN-10: 8497649001
ISBN-13: 978-8497649001

Miguel de Cervantes
Novelas Ejemplares II
Paperback: 360 pages
Publisher: Catedra; 23 edition (January 1, 2006)
Language: Spanish
ISBN-10: 843760222X
ISBN-13: 978-8437602226

Miguel de Cervantes
Exemplary Stories
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (December 15, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0199555001
ISBN-13: 978-0199555000

Niccolo Machiavelli
Il Principe
Publisher: Schoenhofs Foreign Books (January 1, 1975)
Language: Italian
ISBN-10: 8817120375
ISBN-13: 978-8817120371

Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince
Paperback: 186 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (March 17, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 019280426X
ISBN-13: 978-0192804266

Michel de Montaigne
Paperback: 746 pages
Publisher: University of Michigan Library (April 27, 2009)
Language: French

Michel de Montaigne
The Completer Essays
Paperback: 1344 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics (September 7, 1993)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0140446044
|ISBN-13: 978-0140446043

Rebhorn, Wayne A.
Renaissance Debates on Rhetoric
Paperback: 746 pages
Publisher: University of Michigan Library (April 27, 2009)
Language: French

Thomas More
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics (April 29, 2003)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0140449108
ISBN-13: 978-0140449105

William Shakespeare
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Penguin Classics (December 1, 2001)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0140714545
ISBN-13: 978-0140714548

William Shakespeare
Paperback: 504 pages
Publisher: Arden Shakespeare; 3rd edition (August 21, 1997)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1903436575
ISBN-13: 978-1903436578

Desiderius Erasmus
Praise of Folly and Other Writings
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.; Critical edition (October 17, 1989)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0393957497
ISBN-13: 978-0393957495