INTRODUCTION LECTURE NOTES

INTRODUCTION LECTURE NOTES

INTRODUCTION LECTURE NOTES Periodization: sometimes controversial practice of designating and naming historical periods • For example: Early M...

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INTRODUCTION





LECTURE NOTES Periodization: sometimes controversial practice of designating and naming historical periods • For example: Early Modernity (or Early Modern Period) = Late Middle Ages and subsequent Renaissance (and even beyond, according to some) • Using literature as a frame of reference, World Literature Two studies Modernity (or Modern Period), which, very approximately, runs from 1650 through today • First great unit of Modernity = Long Eighteenth Century (1650-1800), also known as (a) Enlightenment; (b) Age of Reason or Rationality; (c) Scientific Revolution; (d) Neo-Classical (or Neo-Augustan) Age; (d) Age of Absolutism (due to so-called enlightened despots, such as Louis XIV [“the Sun King”] in France and Frederick II [“the Great] in Prussia) • Next great unit of Modernity = Romantic Era • Central to “swerve” into Enlightenment: Emphasis on empirical (i.e. experimental) science, based on the rational, systematic, and reflective scientific method that was advanced by Irishman Robert Boyle, the “father of chemistry” • Boyle called his approach the New Philosophy (i.e. new science) • Signature scientist of Enlightenment arguably Englishman Isaac Newton (1643-1727) • Newton’s contributions include (a) law of universal gravitation; (b) three laws of motion; (c) differential and integral calculus • Independently of Newton and at the same time, a German philosopher-scientist called Gottfried Leibniz also invented calculus • In Voltaire’s Candide (which we study in full), the character Pangloss (“all tongue”) is based on Leibniz • Specifically, Voltaire create Pangloss to offer a negative critique not of Leibniz the scientist (whom he admired), but rather of Leibniz’s theology—his theory about God (which Leibniz labeled theodicy) • While a political refugee in England (to avoid a stint in Paris’s Bastille prison), Voltaire encountered Newton’s ideas • Later, he brought them to Continental Europe, where he disseminated them with help from his married girlfriend, the aristocrat Émilie du Châtelet of Château de Cirey • In particular, they translated Newton’s Principia Mathematica • Newton’s impact was acknowledged in a formal, logical rhyming couplet by the Neo-Classical English poet Alexander Pope (a member of the intellectual Scriberlus Club): “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night: | God said, Let Newton be! And all was light” • Enlightenment



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thinkers—such as Newton, Leibniz, Voltaire, Boyle, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Émilie du Châtelet—are polymaths (skilled in a number of areas) • We have a special name for multi-focused intellectual geniuses of that time: philosophes • In other words, an Enlightenment polymath is called a philosophe • Interest in everything from the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, etc.) to medicine to the social sciences (politics, economics, etc.) to religion gave rise to Enlightenment dictionaries and encyclopedias, such as Denis Diderot and Jean d’Alembert’s Dictionaire raisonné des arts, des sciences, et des métiers (1750s and 1760s) • Métier means occupation, trade, profession • Enlightenment intellectuals communicated with each other via a mail-based network informally called the Republic of Letters • Just prior to Enlightenment and its optimism, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes advanced pessimistic view, claiming that the “life of man” is doomed to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” unless a strong central authority emerges to enforce a social contract • In his book Leviathan—subtitled Common Wealth and published in 1655— Hobbes wrote that humans in state of nature would deteriorate into bellum omnium contra omnes (the war of all against all), with the passions (self-interested desires and emotions) supplanting reason • In Part 4 of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (which we will read), a horse people called the Houyhnhnms represent ordered society and exist in contrast to the socially chaotic or Hobbesian Yahoos, a monkey-like people • We can interpret Voltaire’s Candide (especially its El Dorado episode) as the title character’s journey through Europe and South America to see what is truest: Hobbes’s pessimism or the Enlightenment belief that a harmonious and effective social contract is possible when we privilege rationality, education, and science • Lack of social contract: populace sometimes prepared to accept strong, central leader (hence, Age of Absolutism) • Most important real-world example: King Louis XIV of France; aka the Sun King; member of Bourbon dynasty; reign lasted over 72 years • Believing in Divine Right of Kings, Louis XIV centralized authority, building the Neo-Classical Château de Versailles (SW of Paris) as lavish power-center, in use from 1682 to 1789 • As young man in the 1640s and 1650s, Louis had witnessed complex civil wars in France, collectively known as the Fronde • Blaming chaos on the regional distribution of power among aristocratic families, he determined to consolidate power in a Versailles-based absolute monarchy • Historians call Louis XIV’s system the Ancien Régime • Another super-powerful Enlightenment ruler was Frederick II of Prussia (roughly, modern eastern Germany), aka Frederick the Great or Old Fritz, who constructed as power-center palace called Sans Souci in the city of Potsdam (SW of Berlin) • Often, absolute monarchs provided patronage or venture capital to underwrite scientific research, hence the expression “enlightened despots” • Among others, Leibniz, Voltaire, and one of the musician J.S. Bach’s sons benefitted from Frederick II’s financial support • While big nation states like France and big power blocs like the “three kingdoms” (i.e. England-Wales with Scotland and Ireland) emerged, Enlightenment Europe also had multiple petty states, known by German-language term Kleinstaaterei • Voltaire’s Candide opens in—and pokes fun at—fictional version of such a state, which has ridiculous name of Thunder-ten-tronckh • Combination of big nation states and power-blocs with scientific know-how accelerated global exploration, with France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, and others (a) amassing colonies (e.g., Philippines-based Spanish East Indies) and (b) supporting trading megacompanies (e.g., French Compagnie des Indes in South Asia) • Popularity of travel tales (travelogues or encounter literature): real stories like buccaneer William Dampier’s New Voyage round the World (1697); and fictional narratives like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726) • Many states recognized an established church (state religion): Anglicanism in England; Presbyterianism in Scotland; Russian Orthodox Church in Russia; etc. • We shouldn’t, however, treat a given religious denomination simplistically; Roman Catholicism, for instance, had (and still maintains) multiple internal units or congregations • Important and controversial during Enlightenment: Roman Catholic order called Society of Jesus—or Jesuits— founded in 1540, primarily by Spaniard Ignatius of Loyola • Jesuits developed reputation as systematic, thoroughgoing educators (they taught Voltaire in Paris) and as missionaries with military-style organizational model • By means of local settlements called reductions, they more or less controlled present-day Paraguay, then nominally a Spanish colony • Even though England developed an official or



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established church (Anglicanism), many favored Latitudinarianism or toleration of multiple faiths • However, towards end of Enlightenment, Prince William of Dutch royal family (House of Orange) married Princess Mary, heir to the English-Scottish-Irish thrones • William of Orange was a Protestant, and he went to war against his wife’s father, King James II, a Roman Catholic • Once William won (an outcome sometimes called the Glorious Revolution of 1688), England changed its laws so only a Protestant (specifically, an Anglican) could be monarch; it also began introducing Penal Laws that discriminated against (a) Catholics and (b) non-Anglican Protestants, known as Dissenters • One new restriction was that Catholics, such as Alexander Pope, could not own property in London • For its part, Voltaire’s Candide considers several faith practices, not least Jesuits, Anabaptists, Sufis (each of which we clarify over several lectures) •••



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