The History of Disenchantment (Spring 2019)
HON 3V70 • Spring 2019 • TR 12:30–1:45pm
Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.
— C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”
A hundred years ago the great sociologist Max Weber wrote that “The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world.” We experience this, he added, as an “iron cage” of rationalization. The purpose of this course is to explore — through philosophy, history, and fiction — Weberʼs great thesis. Is it correct? If so, what are its consequences? What strategies have we formed to break the bars of this iron cage? And if Weberʼs thesis is not right, in what forms has an enchanted world persisted?
- Plutarch, “On the Cessation of Oracles”
- Max Weber, “Science as a Vocation”
- Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (about half of the total)
- Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (all)
- Ursula K. Le Guin, the first four Earthsea novels (all)*
- Various brief essays and narratives
- Three take-home exams requiring close readings of key passages in our texts
- A series of pop reading quizzes (probably 12 to 15 of them in the course of the term)
*This lovely four-books-in-one volume is not currently in print in the U.S., but you should be able to find it anyway. Please order this one if you possibly can, because if you have the individual books, or a different four-book series, you won’t easily be able to track with the rest of us in class. Also: there are two further volumes in the Earthsea sequence, Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind, and while I am not asking you to read them for this class, they are masterful works. Moreover, a complete illustrated Earthsea will be released soon (later this month as I write).