GRC 301: Fall, 1997

Romance, Revolution, and Reason:

Europe and the American Revolution


Instructor: Katherine Arens Phone: 471-4123

Office: E.P. Schoch 3.128, Germanic Languages

Office Hours: T Th 8-9:25 and by appointment

The American Revolution was in many ways the culmination of a European century: the age of Enlightenment. After the European religious wars of the seventeenth century, the eighteenth century brought a new vision of what people, nations, and history meant. By the end of the century, this new picture of people's intelligence destinies led to major revolutions that changed the face of the world. The United States broke off from England (1776); France went from the Revolution (1789) through the terror and into a new European war under Napoleon; and Italy and Germany changed their allegiances and borders. Out of an era of reason, world economic expansion, and technological growth came terror, colonization, and the ecological ills of industrialization.

This course presents this age of Enlightenment and revolution in its own voice, tracing the connections between the countries of Europe and the United States. Essays, political documents, and literature from France, England, the United States, and Germany introduce the concerns of a century that started an era ending only now.

The roots of this revolutionary era are found in a new picture of human beings, their reason, and the state introduced in the works of Rousseau and Voltaire in France, Kant and Herder in Germany, and Burke and Hume in England. After that, we will turn to how these ideas were reflected in the American Revolution, in the works of Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, and Tom Paine. Later, these ideals of liberty and self-determination were received back in Europe and by a second US generation: as an exemplar for the French Revolution (which disappointed hopes), in Germany, and to mid-century US intellectuals. This is the world of contradictions portrayed in the Merchant/Ivory film, Jefferson in Paris.

This course will thus introduce students to philosophy, literature, and political thought of a foundational moment in Western history, and to strategies for reading texts in historical contexts. No prior work in history, philosophy, government, or literature presupposed; the only prerequisite is a willingness to learn to read across the borders of disciplines and across national borders, to learn to see what happens when cultures clash and to confront the roots of Europe's connections with the United States.

Books Ordered and ON RESERVE AT PCL

Isaac Kramnick, ed. The Portable Enlightenment Reader (Penguin, 1995; ISBN 0-14-024566-9) [not in library]

James Schmidt, ed. What Is Enlightenment?: 18th-Century Answers and Twentieth-Century Questions (U. Cal Press, 1996; ISBN 0-520-20226-0) [ call #B 802 W 47 1996]

Ulrich Im Hof. The Enlightenment (The Making of Europe). (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994; ISBN 0-631-17591-1) [call # B 802 I4 1994]

Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. 1. NY: W.W. Norton, 1994; ISBN 0-393-96461-2 [call # PS 507 N65 1985; Vol. 1]

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, La Nouvelle Heloïse. University Park: Penn State UP, 1986; ISBN 0-271-00602-1 [call # 843 R 763 ntm]

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther. NY: Viking/Penguin, 1989; ISBN 0-14-044503-X [call # PT 2027 A2 G63 1988]

Assignments and Grading

This course will fulfill the University's requirement for a "significant writing component."