Western Literature – Englightment Era & after

Paper Topic:
The Enlightenment put forward a new conception of the human subject as “man” with man being defined through such concepts as “reason,” “experience”, “free consciousness” and so on. This view of the subject/man began to be challenged in the late 18th century through to the 19th century and beyond. This paper will examine two of the central challenges to the traditional Enlightenment conception of the subject–one from the anti-Enlightenment traditions (Romantic, Freudian, or Nietzschean) and one from the materialist tradition (Marxism). It will focus in particular on how these new theories redefine not only the human subject but on how these redefinitions lead to different understandings of “freedom” and “truth.” It will also discuss what different notions of cultural and artistic practice follow from these competing views.

The paper should discuss such issues as: what are the limits of, and problems with, the Enlightenment view of the subject for the new theories? What do they claim has been “left out” of the Enlightenment views? On what alternative grounds do they theorize the subject/self? How does this rethinking lead to different understandings of issues such as freedom and truth, as well as lead to new forms of artistic practice? What are some of the issues you think are at stake in different theories of the “self”/subject?

Required Minimum Bibliography:

Theoretical writings:

Choose ONE of the following:

Rousseau, (Bedford Anthology selections)
Freud (from Interpretation of Dreams, and Ego and the Id)
Nietzsche (“On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense” and from Will to Power, or Twilight of the Idols)


Marx and Engels, (“The Communist Manifesto” and The German Ideology)

Literary and Cultural Texts:

One of the following:

Blake, Wordsworth, Byron (assorted Romantic poetry)
Baudelaire, from Flowers of Evil, Duchamp’s “Urinal” (broadly Nietzschean art)
Breton, “Manifesto of Surrealism” and Surrealist poetry (Freudian)


Brecht, Galileo (Marxist informed)

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