Reading the 18th Century, 04/17/17: Nathan the Wise 2 or Lessing and his Muslim Characters

Friends – I spent some time talking about Lessing’s plea for interfaith tolerance and understanding in a previous post about Nathan the Wise, a play written in German in the late 18th Century. You can read my thoughts about it here, and I recommend doing so before continuing with this post. Today, I’d like to … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century, 04/17/17: Nathan the Wise 2 or Lessing and his Muslim Characters

Reading the 18th Century, March 12, 2017. Rousseau redux: The Discourse on Inequality continued with some cool info on people who read him

  Hi everyone -- welcome back as we take a second look at this seminal piece of writing by Jean Jacques Rousseau. Last time, I talked about Rousseau's theory of humans in the state of nature. Now we'll take a quick look at some of his other ideas. Part 2 of the Discourse starts off … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century, March 12, 2017. Rousseau redux: The Discourse on Inequality continued with some cool info on people who read him

February 27th 2017, Reading the 18th Century: Who are we really? Notes on human nature before civilization, after civilization, and the social contract by a weird Swiss guy who wrote about society but couldn’t actually bear to live in one. In other words, welcome to the world of Jean Jacques Rousseau, part 1

Friends – I’ve been putting off talking about one of the most problematic and fascinating figures of Enlightenment writing. I mean the author who my husband and I love to hate, and hate to love – the philosopher, social theorist, novelist, pedagogy expert, and memoirist, Jean Jacques Rousseau. Where to begin with this guy? Of … Continue reading February 27th 2017, Reading the 18th Century: Who are we really? Notes on human nature before civilization, after civilization, and the social contract by a weird Swiss guy who wrote about society but couldn’t actually bear to live in one. In other words, welcome to the world of Jean Jacques Rousseau, part 1

Reading the 18th Century (and the 19th and the 21st), 01/23/17: From Schiller to Hugo to Rogue One and back again

Friends – In my last post I talked about the important work done by playwright/poet/historian Friedrich Schiller. As I mentioned last time, Schiller wrote frequently about rebels. Almost all his plays feature protagonists (sometimes a man, and sometimes a woman) who are frustrated with the status quo and who revolt against their society, for both … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century (and the 19th and the 21st), 01/23/17: From Schiller to Hugo to Rogue One and back again

Reading the 18th Century, 12/29/16 — rehearsing the revolution: Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers

Friends – I talked last time about one of my favorite German Enlightenment writers, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and his play about religious tolerance, Nathan the Wise. I mentioned that when we talk about German Enlightenment writing we see less of an immediate influence on American thinkers, because – as John Quincy Adams points out – … Continue reading Reading the 18th Century, 12/29/16 — rehearsing the revolution: Friedrich Schiller’s The Robbers

Reading the Enlightenment: Nathan the Wise and imagining religious interconnectedness

Friends – Last week I shared some thoughts about Jonathan Swift’s autobiographical poem and the connection of some its ideas to the attitudes expressed by the Founding Fathers and indeed to one of the sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence. This week, I want to share some insights about a play written in 1779, … Continue reading Reading the Enlightenment: Nathan the Wise and imagining religious interconnectedness

Self-deprecation and the gesture towards improvement: Why I love Jonathan Swift’s weird poem about his own death

I have no title to aspire Yet when you sink I seem the higher (Jonathan Swift, “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift” transcribed from memory). Friends – The above is a quote from my favorite 18th Century poem “Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift,” written by Jonathan Swift himself and published in 1739. … Continue reading Self-deprecation and the gesture towards improvement: Why I love Jonathan Swift’s weird poem about his own death