Spring 2011 Undergraduate English Courses: Restoration/Eighteenth Century

350:435 Seminar: Topics in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture


02-Fictions of the Self
Are we the same person over the course of our lives? What is the relation between the physical and the psychological self? These questions are at once philosophical and literary and form the basis of the problem of personal identity. The problem of personal identity was a major concern for many writers of the eighteenth century and today. This course looks back to eighteenth-century literature and philosophy therefore in order to frame questions that are very much still with us. We will begin with the foundational discussion in John Locke, David Hume, and Thomas Reid and then turn to novels by Daniel Defoe, Eliza Haywood, and Laurence Sterne. We will end this course by seeing how the eighteenth-century problem of personal identity persists in contemporary literature and philosophy and read works by Derek Parfit, Ian McEwan, and Richard Powers.