Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment in Britain
Visiting Professor Henry Abelove
In this course we will focus on a set of closely related British non-fiction prose works of the middle to late eighteenth century, especially as they treat empire, sexuality, and religiosity. Our approach will include both formal and historical analysis. Several short papers will be required; a research paper will be optional. Principal readings will be drawn from David Hume’s ethical writings, Jonathan Swift’s writings on British imperialism in Ireland, Samuel Johnson’s Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, James Boswell’s London Journal, Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, John Wesley’s Sermons and Journals, and Edmund Burke’s Letter to a Noble Lord and his parliamentary speeches on British imperialism in India. Class meetings will be discussion-based.
Students will be expected to acquire these four paperback books: Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and Journal of A Tour to the Hebrides, ed. Peter Levi, Penguin English Classics; Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. Womersley, Penguin Classics; James Boswell, Boswell’s London Journal, 1762-1763, ed. Pottle, Yale University Press; Edmund Burke, On Empire, Liberty, and Reform: Edmund Burke’s Speeches and Letters, ed. Bromwich, Yale University Press.
Henry Abelove is Visiting Professor of English at NYU for the spring term of 2012. He is Wilber Fisk Osborne Professor of English Emeritus at Wesleyan University. He is the author of The Evangelist of Desire: John Wesley and the Methodists (1992), Deep Gossip (2002). A leading scholar of queer studies in the United States, he is coeditor of the path-breaking volume The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader (1993). He is currently working on a book called George Berkeley and the American Indians.