18th Century and More with Professor Seavey

Michel de Montaigne
GW Students!  Professor Ormond Seavey’s courses for spring afford some great opportunities for exposing yourself to a wide range of literature, from its early American beginnings to the classic Education of Henry Adams, published in 1907.

English 3490 Early American Literature and Culture
CRN: 43931, Tue/Thur 3:45-5 PM
Beginning with a Shakespeare text which represents a bridge between the turbulent early modern period in Europe from which Renaissance literature emerged and the domain of uncertainty of the New World, this course considers some of the imaginative costs and benefits of the Euro-African settlement of the Americas between the beginning of the seventeenth century and the end of the eighteenth century.  It is a story filled with problems, accommodations, excuses, and conflicts, with some suggestive successes mixed in.  Although this course deals to an extent with historical materials, its approach is a literary one, assuming that careful interpretive distinctions of the sort used to reveal the meanings of poetry and fiction are needed to answer the most interesting historical questions. 

English 3810.12 Special Topics: Politics, Skepticism, and Literature
CRN: 45497, Tue/Thur 11:10-12:25 AM
Skepticism, the ironic approach to existence, coexists somewhat uncomfortably with the activities of politics, but skeptical approaches to public and personal life emerge in the early modern period with the writings of Erasmus and Montaigne.  In the Eighteenth Century as irony comes to its richest appearance, it can be seen in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travelsand even in the historical writings of Gibbon.  Turning to the American Nineteenth Century, an era when skepticism tended to be discounted as an adequate approach to experience, Emerson revisits Montaigne’s Essays in an effort to incorporate skepticism into an aspect of idealizing affirmation.  The course moves toward the profound negations of Henry Adams, a figure carefully spraddling domains of imaginative expression and public life in Washington, with his Education of Henry Adams. 

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