The Enlightenment and its Others: Irish, British, and American Visions (seminar)

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This was a late-spring 2003 seminar led by Luke Gibbons.

This seminar discussed the history of the Enlightenment in the Anglicized world in relation to its excluded others-Catholics, members of Gaelic culture, Indian culture, African-Americans, and indigenous peoples in America and Australia, to name some of the most obvious historical examples. In terms of key Enlightenment concepts of progress and civil society, these cultures were considered obstacles on the path to modernity. As if affording a culture of consolation, Romanticism became a refuge for many of these "doomed peoples," whether in the form of primitivism, the Gothic, Celticism, atavism, or romantic or cultural nationalism-in general, movements that constitute what Isaiah Berlin described as "the counter-Enlightenment." This seminar sought to contextualize these categories in a number of ways: firstly, it questioned Eurocentric notions of perfectibility and civilization by looking at counter-currents in Enlightenment thought which did not ostracize or marginalize "the Other"; secondly, it analyzed the possibility of vernacular or alternative Enlightenments by examining political, ethical, or aesthetic concepts within native or indigenous cultures; thirdly, it investigated key considerations relating to race, gender, and colonialism which helped to de-limit the Enlightenment to its dominant, Western versions. The discussion throughout was informed by contemporary debates on the question of cultural and human rights, and post-colonial public spheres.

Director: Luke Gibbons holds concurrent appointments in the departments of English, Film, Television, and Theatre, and at the Keough Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Transformations in Irish Culture (1996) and coauthor of Cinema and Ireland (1987). His Edmund Burke and Ireland: Aesthetics, Politics, and the Colonial Sublime is forthcoming in 2003.