Spring 2019

Aldous Huxley

, 4 pts, UN3228


The course proposes to examine the major works of Aldous Huxley as vital contributions to the emerging 20th century canon of modernism, internationalism, pacifism, spiritualism, and the psychology of modern consciousness. Critical studies of Huxley have typically split his work into two phases—social satire and mysticism—that roughly correspond to Huxley’s perceived oscillation between cynicism and religiosity. This course proposes a less disjunctive approach to his writings. Huxley’s starkly dystopian vision in Brave New World often overshadowed his earnest endeavors to find a meeting point between mainstream Western thought and the philosophical traditions of the non-Western world, particularly of Hinduism and Buddhism. His early novels, including Brave New World, bear traces of his deep-seated spiritual quest, even as his works were steeped in critiques of the ominous trends towards regimentation and authoritarian control of the social body. 

As a novelist of ideas, Huxley gave voice to the most vexing intellectual and moral conflicts of his time, refusing to retreat into the solipsism of experimental writing while at the same time searching for wholeness in Eastern meditative systems. This course probes Huxley’s writings from a multitude of angles, examining his works (both fiction and nonfiction) in the context of evolutionary, secular thought, while also reading them as strivings towards models of world peace inspired, to some extent, by mystical thought. The latter invoked concepts drawn from Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain thought, alongside Christian mysticism and Taoism, in an eclectic practice that Huxley called “the perennial philosophy.” Organized chronologically, course readings include Point Counter Point (1928), Brave New World (1932), Eyeless in Gaza (1936), Time Must Have a Stop (1944), The Perennial Philosophy (1944), Ape and Essence (1948), The Devils of Loudun (1952), The Doors of Perception (1954), The Genius and the Goddess (1955), Island (1962), and The Divine Within (1992). This course will be of importance especially to students interested in the intersections of 20th century British modernist literature and non-Western philosophical and religious systems, as well as more generally to students interested in an intensive study of one of the 20th century’s most prolific authors.

Section Number
Call Number
Day, Time & Location
W 4:10PM-6:00PM 612 Philosophy Hall
Gauri Viswanathan