In this module, we shall study a broad range of cultural phenomena, in particular literary and poetological writings pertaining to the “Scottish Enlightenment”. The latter is an umbrella term designating the “conjunction of minds, ideas, and publications in Scotland” (Britannica) in the 18th century, with Edinburgh at its centre. Perhaps the most prominent legacy of the Scottish Enlightenment is its philosophy – David Hume and Adam Smith as proponents of a theory of moral sense stand out, but there are also the lesser known Lord Kames, James Beattie, Thomas Reid, who were also highly influential well beyond the boundaries of Scotland. Apart from notable architects, scientists, historians, theologians, and critics, poets and novelists like James Thomson, James McPherson (the inventor of “Ossian”), Henry Mackenzie and Tobias Smollett also left their mark.
If the Scottish Enlightenment thus appears to have been a small, regional phenomenon, a formidable “hotbed of genius“ (Voltaire) on the margins of Europe that invented modern sociology just as its own fictive past, many of its key players were indeed inextricably linked to the dynamics of the British empire, negotiating imperialism and slavery on both sides. This global entanglement of the Scottish Enlightenment will be a key aspect to be studied in this seminar.
Most relevant primary material will be on the Moodle platform; however, you will need your own copies of Tobias Smollett’s Humphry Clinker (preferably Norton Critical Edition), Henry Mackenzie’s The Man of Feeling, and James Boswell’s/Samuel Johnson’s A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Penguin Classics).
Our seminar will be in dialogue with the seminar on Contemporary Scottish Literature run by Prof. Wolfram Keller.
The Lektürekurs is designed to allow the in-depth study of further primary material and relevant recent research.