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Wesleyan University

The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 2)

Wesleyan University via Coursera


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?


  • Course Pages
  • Intensity and the Ordinary: Sex, Death, Aggression and Guilt
    • With a focus on Civilization and its Discontents, we examine how Freud’s theories tried to expose profound instincts as they appeared in daily life.
  • Intensity and the Ordinary: Art, Loss, Forgiveness
    • A reading of Virginia Woolf’s modernist novel To the Lighthouse shows how giving up the search for the “really real” can liberate one to attend to the everyday.
  • The Postmodern Everyday
    • We go back to Ralph Waldo Emerson and forward to Ludwig Wittgenstein to consider how forms of life and language games need to foundation to be compelling.
  • From Critical Theory to Postmodernism
    • Through a consideration of Max Horkheimer & Theodor Adorno along with Michel Foucault, we confront the philosophical effort to escape from totality in order to understand the politics of control.
  • Paintings II
    • A very brief consideration of how artists are responding to the loss of foundations to produce work that redefines art.
  • Postmodern Identities
    • We examine short pieces by Judith Butler and Slavjo Zizek to understand how identities get formed (and performed) in a world without foundations.
  • Late-term Review
    • Review of all the thinkers we have studied in Parts I and II of the class, along with some complementary material.
  • Postmodern Pragmatisms
    • After postmodern playfulness, or alongside it, we see the resurgence of the pragmatic impulse to return philosophy to real human problems.
  • Extra (Optional) Writing Assignment

Taught by

Michael Roth


3.5 rating, based on 2 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 353 ratings

Start your review of The Modern and the Postmodern (Part 2)

  • Anonymous
    He, as I see it, is not talking about the modern to postmodern, instead, he is taking some of the distinct philosophers of the time and focuses heavily on them and not taking into account all the other millions of complexities of the time. History i…
  • I found this one of the more challenging MOOCs I've taken. Some of the readings were fairly complex although most were enjoyable. The peer reviewed assignments were hard work but made sure I had understood the lectures - indeed they were a major component in my learning. The style of teaching was concise and supportive to understanding. I would strongly recommend the course.

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