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Literature and Enlightenment (17th-18th centuries)

This rotating-topic seminar examines 17th- and 18th-century French literature in relation to the intellectual, social, and political movements of the Enlightenment. Taught in French.


The science of sound advanced rapidly from the mid-17th to the late 18th-century as experimenters measured the speed, volume, and quality of sound, physicians learned about the human ear, inventors created new instruments and sound-making machines, and musicians developed mathematically complex theories of harmony. These discoveries made a critical impact on philosophy and literature. In this seminar, we explore how major thinkers of the Enlightenment era drew inspiration from music, sound, and noise to theorize about sensibility and subjectivity, language and emotion, ethics and society. Readings include primary texts by Descartes, Lafayette, Madeleine de Scudéry, Claude Perrault, Diderot, and Rousseau, among others. This seminar is designed mainly for graduate students. Advanced undergraduates considering this course are encouraged to email Prof. Welch for more information. Graduate students from other programs (Music, History, English/CompLit, etc.) are also very welcome. The main language of discussion will be French with accommodations for students from other programs.

Instructional mode: remote-synchronous

Prerequisites: Instructor’s Permission

Previously Offered:

Fall 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2021