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Individual, Polis and Society: Philosophical Reflections in History (HI2A5)

The Thinker 

Tutor: Dr Imogen Peck
Phone: 024 76150927, internal extension 50927
Office: H007, ground floor of the Humanities Building
Lectures: Mondays 12:00-13:00 in H060
Seminar Group #1: Mondays 14:00-15:00 in H345
Seminar Group #2: Fridays 14:00-15:00 in H303
Seminar Group #3: Fridays 15:00-16:00 in H303

This module will introduce students to a range of long-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century texts in which there is sustained reflection and commentary on the individual, the polity, and an emerging conception of society. In doing so, this module raises broader philosophical questions about the construction of identity, character and virtue, political realism and idealism, and relativism and individualism. The module also involves students in reflecting on the changes in styles of painting, architecture and fashion and linking this to the core themes. The emphasis of the module is on how as historians we should approach some of the major pieces of writing of the period, both the more and the less philosophical. Consequently, a core component of the module is encouraging a close reading of the texts, coupling this with raising questions about the importance of historical context in generating and reflecting critically on such readings. The module is structured thematically, taking conceptions of the individual, then the polis, then society; but within those themes it is structured chronologically, allowing students to have a sense of the increasing interaction of different lines of argument.

This 30 CATS module is compulsory for second-year students of the 'History and Philosophy' joint-degree, and is also available as an option module for second-year students of History, Joint Degrees with History, and, by negotiation with other degree courses.

Guidelines for assignment 1

Guidelines for assignment 2

Guidelines for long essay

Summer preparation:

The aim of the course is to encourage you to read a range of primary texts - so there's no real course book. For those wanting to read themselves into the course I'd suggest you read some or all of the following (chosen in part because they can be read on a beach-ish):

James Boswell, The London Journal 1762-63 - or The Diary of Dudley Ryder; or Pepys's Diary (available in a one volume Penguin edition)

Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey

Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women +/or Mary Hays, Memoirs of Emma Courtenay

The History of Mary Prince

Stendhal, Love - +/or Hazlitt's Liber Amoris

Those are good ways to build up your knowledge of texts that will feature at the begiining of the course. And as background you might try Droh Wahrman's The Making of the Modern Self. But the course really does want you to read and think about the primary texts - and the ones I have mentioned are among the more accessible.

If you run out - read some 18th C plays and more novels (eg. Inchbald's A Simple Story; Defoe's Moll Flanders, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Opie's Adeline Mowbray, Godwin's Caleb Williams). None of it will be wasted - because its also a course that wants you to read as widely as you can and to bring your own knowledge.

I hope that's some help. And enjoy it!