For course offerings at Yale University with a focus on the eighteenth century world, visit the Yale Course Search website


Colonial and National: American Literature to 1830

An introduction to both the primary texts and the current scholarship in the field, including transatlantic and hemispheric perspectives; the public sphere; evangelicalism and the secular; the rise of African American public intellectuals; varieties of pastoral in contexts of settler colonialism; cultural geographies of literary capitals and the backcountry; nationalism; polite letters and popular genres; Native American literacies; the early American novel; and the modern social imaginary. Writers and preachers studied include Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Samson Occom, Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Judith Sargent Murray, Timothy Dwight, and Charles Brown. The course ends with the generation of Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Fenimore Cooper, and Catharine Sedgwick.

Course Type: Undergraduate

Enlightenment and Religion

This course explores the relationship between the Enlightenment and religion. We probe two related issues. First, how did the philosophes view religion? We then ask the less conventional question of the uses theologians or clergy made of the Enlightenment. The course crosses national borders (England, France, German states, and Habsburg empire) and confessional boundaries (Protestantism, Catholicism, Judaism). Our focus is Western and Central Europe.

Professor: David Sorkin
Course Type: Undergraduate

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

An examination of the metaphysical and epistemological doctrines of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.

Course Type: Undergraduate


An interdisciplinary study of philosophy, social thought, and some key literary works connected to two moments of modernity—the Enlightenment and the period of the “great upheaval” (1870–1915).

Course Type: Undergraduate

Identity and Difference in Eighteenth-Century France

In the decades before the French Revolution, debates about identity and difference, diversity and equality, and the shifting categories of sex, race and class, announced the stakes of the democracy to come. This course asks how political, scientific and religious discourses marked individuals as ‘others’ in the eighteenth century. What strategies of resistance did individuals, in turn, employ to define themselves? The Enlightenment’s colonial and postcolonial legacy will also be explored. Authors to be studied include Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Olympe de Gouges, and Raynal. Conducted in French.

Course Type: Graduate

Modern Drama and Mass Culture

Taking account of the genealogy of modern drama in eighteenth-century performance, this seminar considers critical theories of the culture industry in relationship to selected canonical plays and popular theater-historical events from Oroonoko (1695) to Oroonoko, a new adaptation by Biyi Bandele (1999), and from The Beggar’s Opera (1728) to The Threepenny Opera (1928). Topics include the transformation of classical genres into the drame, the commercialization of leisure through the mass-marketing of vicarious experience, and the emerging culture of celebrity. Critical readings include selections from the Frankfurt School, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Raymond Williams, Roland Barthes, and Jean Baudrillard. Plays are drawn from popular comedies, Sheridan to Shaw (Pygmalion and My Fair Lady), and long-running bourgeois dramas, beginning with Lillo’s The London Merchant. Readings are supplemented by selected materials on theatrical production, acting, and management.

Course Type: Graduate

The Enlightenment: Approaches to the Intellectual and Cultural History of the 18th Century

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the philosophical, methodological, and historiographical questions involved in the study of the Enlightenment as a historical phenomenon. Among the topics to be considered are the geography, social actors, and spaces of Enlightenment; the history of books and reading; the relationship between ideas and revolutions; and the nature and legacy of Enlightenment thinking on subjects ranging from the nature of God to slavery and colonialism. Readings will include a sampling of important primary sources (i.e. Kant, Rousseau, Hume, Wollstonecraft, Franklin), but will focus primarily in the evolution in historians’ responses to the question “€œwhat is Enlightenment?”

Course Type: Graduate