02 MTH2 CAC 17394 SOLOMON MU-208
Science and Fiction in the Eighteenth Century
Through the eighteenth century, science and philosophy were often expressed in fictional narratives, writers of fiction often presented their work as true observations, and audiences were required to develop new relationships to the written word. In this course we will examine the overlap between scientific inquiry and fiction in the so-called long eighteenth century (from the Restoration to the turn of the nineteenth century). How do authors in this period conceive of fiction in relation to truth? Or fiction in relation to lying? Are scientific hypotheses a kind of fiction? What happens to long-held religious doctrines? And how does the emergence of a middle-class, largely female readership affect the kinds of works produced? We will give special attention to questions of genre, as many of the assigned texts mingle elements of novels, scientific and/or philosophical treatises, travel narratives, philosophical tales and imaginary voyages, to name a few. Readings will include works by Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, David Hume, Voltaire and Mary Shelley. Regular attendance is required, and active participation is expected; there will also be reading quizzes, two papers and a final written exam.