ENGL 421
Fanaticism Spring 2010
Division I
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writers of literature and political philosophy repudiate fanaticism–over and over again. Whether as a religious, political or amorous posture, fanaticism is universally decried and never avowed. But what is fanaticism, and why should it be considered such a threat, particularly during a period that for the most part embraced an enlightened secular rationalism? In this course, we will explore these questions by considering literary texts that dramatize fanaticism in light of accounts by such philosophers and historians as Voltaire, Kant, Rousseau, Hobbes, Hume, Burke, Tocqueville, Carlyle, Mill, William James, and Adorno. Literary readings will be drawn from works by Swift, Wordsworth, Hogge, Dickens, Eliot, Hawthorne, Conrad, and Henry James. We will also look at drawings and engravings by Hogarth and Goya. While some of these works oppose to fanaticism a capacity for sympathy, self-examination, and political flexibility, others ascribe it to the self-contradictory tenets of nineteenth-century literary realism and political liberalism. Since fanaticism has recently had considerable political currency, we will also consider some contemporary accounts, by Walter Laqueur and others, which reanimate the debates and concerns of the course.
The Class: Format: discussion/ seminar
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3694
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: students will write one 6- to 8-page paper and one 10- to 15-page paper
Prerequisites: a 100-level and a 300-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: junior and senior English majors
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: ENGL Criticism Courses

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