Enlightened Exchanges

New School for Social Research: Liberal Studies

Liberal Arts
Graduate Course
Degree Students (with Restrictions)
Enlightened Exchanges
Fall 2024
Taught By: Gina Walker
Section: A

CRN: 17145

Credits: 3

This course reads published, private, and inter-textual conversations between select male and female thinkers to recover and assess more accurately women’s participation in the project of Enlightenment. While most of these exchanges and conversations will have been between contemporaneous figures, we will also consider some that have gone on across centuries, like the conversations Italian Renaissance humanists conducted with their antique predecessors. Machiavelli returned home in the evening, changed his clothes, and conversed with ancient authors by reading their books.[1] We ask whether there were any texts by women on his list? Why is female epistemological authority always contested so that accounts of the past are either ignorant or dismissive of named women’s contributions? We consider female thinkers’ ideas in the context of traditional Intellectual History and their interactions with their male contemporaries and each other. We draw on new research about “Revolutionary Women” Phillis Wheatley (1753–1784), learned enslaved poet, and Suzanne Sanité Belair (1781–1802), a young free woman of color who became a lieutenant in Haitian revolutionary leader Toussaint Louverture’s army, to interrogate women’s resistance to canonical knowledge-ordering systems and their proposals for alternative structures and actions. We examine the conflicts and convergences between women and men’s theological, epistemological, political, and affective understanding; women’s networks and misalliances; the new knowledge that femmes philosophes produced; and, consequently, the volatile public reception to Poullain de la Barre’s Cartesian argument that “the mind has no sex” and his promotion of “the equality of the sexes.” We interrogate individual men’s and women’s responses to the ongoing Slave Trade and the concept of Enslavement. We map the female texts that consider gender and race as inextricably interweaved, and men’s resistance to or acceptance of this premise and practice. We speculate about how sixty years of feminist historical recovery has or has not made done more than just “add women into conventional historical narratives and stir.” In our discussions and presentations, we model what Enlightened Exchanges could look like. Finally, we ask what might a knowledge-ordering system that includes a female dimension look like? We ask whether and how the inclusion of previously eclipsed women thinkers or people of various races and nationalities in a reconceived canon transform the nature and history of Western thought. The set of “enlightened exchanges” we will investigate can be understood as part of a project of redressing epistemic injustice, defined by the philosopher Miranda Fricker as “a wrong done specifically to someone in their capacity as a knowerOne of the two types of epistemic injustice Fricker analyses, testimonial injustice, occurs where a speaker’s report is taken less seriously by its hearer because of a dimension of that speaker’s identity such as gender, race or class. The women thinkers in these enlightened exchanges have largely been victims of the testimonial injustice Fricker thematizes. Beyond this dimension, however, we believe that Western thought and society have been epistemically injured by the testimonial injustice shown to these thinkers: the canon and its contents have been distorted and impoverished through the systematic exclusion of women’s voices. We hope in this course to begin to correct some of the damage.

College: New School for Social Research (GF)

Department: Liberal Studies (LBS)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: September 9, 2024 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: November 17, 2024 (Sunday)

Seats Available: Yes

Status: Open*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 3:52pm EDT 7/12/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Thursday
Times: 1:55pm - 3:45pm
Building: Academic Entrance 63 Fifth Ave
Room: 312
Date Range: 8/26/2024 - 12/15/2024