Women and Intellectual Life in Early Modern Europe
Early Modern Europe (approx. 1500-1800) was marked by fundamental intellectual, social, cultural and religious change. Accordingly, traditional knowledge was challenged by new ideas of nature and culture, body and soul, state and individual, public and private, virtue and vice, knowledge and technology, art and science.
Through close reading and analysis of selected works by early modern women philosophers and writers the course gives a broad as well as nuanced understanding of major intellectual strands in natural, moral and political philosophy in Early Modern Europe. The course addresses questions concerning power, speech and the public sphere in these turbulent times. How was nature, reason, knowledge and perception conceptualized and debated? In which way can we understand the early modern world of passions, love and hate, virtue and vice? What plays of identities were possible and performed?
Power, gender and historiographical issues are thus discussed throughout the course. Examples of early modern women intellectuals whose work may be used in the course are Anna Maria van Schurman, Moderata Fonte, Marie de Gourney, Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Émelie du Châtelet, Mary Astell, Mme de Lafayette, Eliza Haywood. Canonical male philosophers, scientists and writers of the period will be added if needed.