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This course examines how the idea of "the modern" develops at the end of the 18th century in European philosophy and literature, and how being modern (or progressive, or hip) became one of the crucial criteria for understanding and evaluating cultural change. Are we still in modernity, or have we moved beyond the modern to the postmodern?
- “The Modern and the Postmodern Part I” covers the first half of a full semester course on European history, literature and philosophy. We begin with Immanuel Kant and Jean Jacques Rousseau and conclude with Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Baudelaire and a very quick look at painting at the time they wrote. Although in the final week themes of postmodernism begin to emerge, a discussion of how modernism becomes postmodernism is at the heart of Part II of this course.
Philosophy, Modernity, and Intellectual History
-Why is philosophy relevant to modernity?
Through reading Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, we examine philosophy as a reflection on modernity and progress.
What is Enlightenment?
-Using Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, we study how the pursuit of knowledge is related to the politics of inequality.
From Enlightenment to Revolution
-Karl Marx is our focus here as we move from a consideration of ideas to a confrontation with alienation, class struggle and revolution.
Modernism and Art for Art's Sake
-We read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as a reflection on convention, stupidity and art in the wake of the failures of mid-19th century revolution.
Re-imagining the World
-We situate Charles Darwin’s great achievement in the context of the English Enlightenment traditions and reimaging the world without a goal for change.
From Struggle to Intensity
-Through an examination of Charles Baudelaire and Friedrich Nietzsche, we focus on an aesthetic embrace of intensity instead of search for the “really real.”
-A Quick Survey of how advanced painting moved toward a consideration of the surface of the canvas and away from a quest for the most realistic representation of the world.