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Women and men are still putting up false appearances and are totally consumed with maintaining or achieving higher status in the world.
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For your first essay for this class, you are going to imagine a conversation between you and three other writers/thinkers we’ve encountered so far this semester.
The Situation: You are a TV talk show host! Imagine that three of the writers/artists/thinkers we’ve discussed in Module 1 have been transported into the 21st century and got booked onto your show as a panel discussion to talk about the legacy of the Enlightenment in the 21st century. Today your program is hosting a panel of at least three of the writers or thinkers or artists we’ve discussed in Unit 1 of Humanities 105 (this is the unit that covers weeks 1-3 of our course). Your panel must include either Mary Wollstonecraft or Olympe de Gouges, and two other authors/thinkers of your choice (Descartes, Kant, Diderot, L’Ouverture, and/or any of the artists you’ve learned about). You can also include additional participants if you wish. Your purpose in the show script is to have these three thinkers share their thoughts on 1) how they see the legacy of the Enlightenment and its successes and failures in the 21st century and 2) how they feel their specifc projects and ideas are still at work today. In doing this you will be able to show your instructor that you’re beginning to see how different figures we’ve discussed from the 18th century still play a role in our current debates–especially when it comes to thinking about struggles for truth, independence, and equality! You should also, as moderator, connect the conversation to your own personal experience in the 21st century at at least three points in the conversation. Here’s a way you might do that: “De Gouges points out women are not treated as equals to men, and I see that in my own house. As a female, I’m expected to help out with my younger siblings, which really cuts into my studying time, but my older brother isn’t expected to do any of that!”
What does the “legacy of the Enlightenment” mean? It’s hard for us to understand because the idea of the individual search for truth and knowledge and for a society built on truth and knowledge and ideas like fairness and liberty are so second nature to us, but those ideas were born during the Enlightenment. So when you think about the legacy of the Enlightenment, you might think about “How is our society doing with supporting the search for truth, knowledge and equality?” “Have we had any successes?” “Have we had any setbacks?” If dropped into our current world, what would be exciting for these Enlightenment thinkers? What would be worrisome? What would Diderot think of Wikipedia? Would he think it was all good or would he see some potential problems? What might de Gouges think about the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment never got adopted? What might L’Ouverture have to say about George Floyd?
What do you mean about these thinkers’ “specific projects?” Diderot’s specific project was the first encyclopedia. How might he feel about the new ways of sharing knowledge now? Kant believed in the public and private uses of reason. How would those 2 uses be facilitated or hindered by advances like the internet? Wollstonecraft thought inherited wealth made equality impossible? What kind of economic system might she support now?
The Purpose: There are two purposes in this assignment 1) show that you understand some key points about of the figures we’ve discussed in terms of how they feel about the struggle for truth, knowledge, independence, and equality. You can demonstrate this through well-chosen evidence and summary/analysis of your evidence 2) show that you understand how the different figures may compliment/agree or contradict/disagree with each other. You can demonstrate this by thoughtfully structuring your assignment to think about how the figures would interact with and respond to each other. and 3) show how these thinkers’ ideas might relate to daily life in 2022.
The Details: Your assignment should use at least three well-chosen quotes from the readings we’ve done. Cite the page numbers of any quotations and make sure the quotes are in “quotation marks.” The different figures can also summarize quotes (please also give the page numbers) analyze quotes or quotes from other thinkers and respond to each other using quotes or engaging in dialogue.
Your panel should include at least three writers/artists we’ve discussed and each should have roughly equal air time on the show. Remember that you must include either Wollstonecraft or de Gouges, and two other authors/artists/thinkers of your choice. If you choose to include a fourth participant, it’s fine if they play a smaller role, like in the example below 🙂
Sample Start of a Successful Essay:
Moderator: Welcome back! Sorry we had to take that emergency break after things got a little rowdy between a few of our guests. In case you’re just tuning in, with us on the show are Touissant L’Overture, Denis Diderot, Jean-Honore Fragonard, and Mary Wollstonecraft. I’ve separated Wollstonecraft from Fragonard and she promised during the break she’d try not to hit him again if he talks about women as sexualized objects in art.
Wollstonecraft: (adjusting her wig which was dislodged during the fight) I didn’t promise anything. If he’d just stop mansplaining about the masterpiece of women’s bodies as sexual objects for a second maybe he’d be able understand them as thinking female subjects struggling for independent thought. It’s like I said in “A Vindication…” “It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men” (619). How can women think for themselves when they are completely dependent on men? Of course they’re sexy. That’s the only way they can make it in the world! We’ve got to change the system. And frankly as I I’ve been doomscrolling Instagram and seeing all these ridiculous filters and facetuning features people are using, I’m not even sure that anything has changed. Women and men are still putting up false appearances and are totally consumed with maintaining or achieving higher status in the world.
Diderot: Mary, calm down! You’re so angry at JH that you’re not event talking about how cool it is in the 21st century! Thanks to the wonders of the Internet and self publishing it is so much easier for me to get the ideas of the Encyclopedie out there which is ah-mazing. And you all know how much time, effort, and money I put in to getting it written and what a pain it was. But I worry that unlike what I promoted back in France in the 1790s that some of the information I’ve found out there, especially when I’ve been on twitter (follow me at @DDiderot, btw!) seems pretty sketchy. And if we are truly in an “intellectual daring” moment in time in which all “things must be examined, debated, investigated without exception” then why are there so many polarizing viewpoints and suspicions of people who think differently from each other( Encyclopedie 18) ? There’s a lot of potential, but the vast world of 21st century knowledge and “truth” scares me too. It seems like some of the “thinking” I see on the internet is not really being investigated carefully.
L’Overture: Well practically speaking I love that I can use different forms of communication to let my friends and countrymen know what’s going on out there. You want to talk about fake news? Think about me trying to get information about our priorities as the newly free people of San Domingue out by literally having to get my army to literally post it on poles and trees in various cities around San Domingue. I wish we’d had even a newspaper–Twitter would have been a godsend. Do you know how hard it is to get a proclamation to stay up on a tree? Not exactly an efficient way to get the message out! And all those letters I wrote to Napoleon who totally ghosted me and no way to communicate with my family back at home! Brutal! But Denis, even though people seem so split on issues, the fact that everyone seems to have a voice and a way to share ideas seems like a pretty significant positive change to me. It’s what I’d hoped for so much and it reminds me of the Fifth Article of the San Domingue Constitution — “No other distinctions exist than those of virtues and talents, nor any other superiority than that granted by the law in the exercise of a public charge. The law is the same for all, whether it punishes or protects.” It’s all about how smart you are and how virtuous you are. Not about your skin color. If people have good ideas and are virtuous and industrious about putting them out there, their talents show and they are successful and prosperous.
Wollstonecraft: But Touissant…I still see so many ways that inequities exist…! What about….etc. etc. etc.
Grading Criteria for Think on Your Feet # 1
Strength of Ideas Range and depth of arguments; logic or arguments; appropriate sense of complexity of the topic; appropriate awareness of similarities/differences in figures’ viewpoints (35 points possible)
Organization and Development Logical and clear arrangement of ideas; effective use of transitions; unity and coherence of paragraphs/dialogue; strong use of textual evidence and analysis/commentary on evidence (remember to use at least three quotations); evidence is cited correctly using (page numbers), quotation marks, author’s names/titles of texts (35 points possible)
Clarity and Style Ease of readability; appropriate voice, tone and style for assignment; clarity of sentence structure; gracefulness of sentence structure (15 points possible)
Sentence Structure and Mechanics Sentences are grammatically correct; errors do not inhibit my ability to understand their meaning; accurate spelling and proofreading (15 points possible)
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