Tuesday, June 2, 2009

1700 to 1799: Candide to Citizen of the World

Chronology of World, British and American Literature.

Voltaire. French. 1759. Novel. Candide, ou L’Optimism. Satirized Leibnitz’s “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” Pangloss, Cunegonde, Lisbon earthquake, the Inquisition, El Dorado. Ends with “We must cultivate our garden.”

Laurence Sterne. British. 1759/67. Novel. Tristram Shandy. Chaotic account of Tristram’s life from conception to the present. Influenced by Locke’s association of ideas. Never gets beyond the second or third year of his life. Sandwiched in are “opinions,” longwinded reflections on everything. Sterne has written a hodge-podge instead of a history. Describes events whose chain of causation is cosmic, but significance is petty. Primary importance: content of consciousness at a given moment. Typographical eccentricities include one-sentence chapters, blank pages, and unfinished sentences.

Rousseau. French. 162. Nonfiction. The Social Contract. Treatise on the origins and organization of government and the rights of citizens. No man has any natural authority over another. Individual is the basic political unit. The individual surrenders his rights to the state. Is equal to all others. Distrusts democracy. Aristocracy is acceptable. Monarchy is best. Minorities must submit to the will of the majority.

Rousseau. French. 1762. Romance. Emile, ou l’Education. A child is not an adult and should not be treated as such until ready. Character formation: learn by experience, observation. Physical exercise and mastery of trades and hard work. Education of Sophie (women): Please men, be charming, modest, virtuous, and submissive.

Oliver Goldsmith. British. 1762. Novel. The Citizen of the World. Colloquial prose. Chinese philosopher visits England and reports on it to his friends in the East.

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