Early Modern Political Theory

Mon & Thurs

1:30 -2:50

Meg Mott

Library 102


  • improve close readings of canonical texts;
  • develop skills in argumentation;
  • develop an appreciation for how reason and rhetoric validates civic liberty.


Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration

Baruch Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise


Over the course of the semester, you'll write three short essays. These are not research papers, and they should not be summaries. They are thoughtful, organized responses to the work under discussion. They should delineate issues, propose interpretations, raise questions, and provoke thought.

I'll be looking at all your papers and getting them back to you with comments in a timely fashion. Any paper can be resubmitted for another look. This is what I'll be looking for:

  • engagement with the readings;

  • clear statement of the argument;

  • consideration of a counter-argument;
  • precise and vivid language;

  • intellectual honesty.

In other words, the writings should be engaged and honest; written with a reader in mind and full of all your brilliance.

grading criteria:

Grading Rubric

Show up. Write. Read with a pen in your hand. Have a thesauraus near by. Let your brain stretch in new directions. Consider changing a deeply-held belief. Develop a political vocabulary. Cultivate an aesthetic for justice.

Class attendance is crucial. If you have to miss a class, please let us know. Students who miss more than two classes will see a drop in their grade. Failing to pass in one of the three essays translates into a D. Don't take this class if you can't stay on top of the daily assignments.

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Last modified: Monday, December 19, 2011, 9:18 AM