Modernity and Its Discontents

History 103B.005

Fall 2007
Instructor (text): 
201 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
Thurs 12-2
Eliah Bures is a Ph.D. cadidate studying late modern Europe, with particular interests in intellectual and cultural history and the history of modern Germany.

Few ideas have been both as celebrated and reviled as ";modernity."; This course will attempt to tease out the meaning and implications of this concept by paying particular (though not exclusive) attention to those who have challenged, critiqued, or even rejected modernity and modern life. While a number of secondary texts will be assigned, the bulk of the reading will be primary sources. We will discuss classic works by Rousseau, Marx, Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Freud, Weber, Ortega y Gasset, Horkheimer and Adorno, and Foucault, along with a host of other texts and commentaries from the early modern period to the present day. We will also read several novels. Along the way, we will subject these authors and critics to comparative analysis and try to answer a set of questions that go to the heart of the intellectual and cultural currents of the modern age. How have the causes and consequences of modernity been envisioned? What is new about modernity? What are the attitudes toward the world and our place in it which it designates? And why has modernity (or modernism, or modernization) so often been seen as a threatening and disorienting force? Topics to be discussed include: secularization and ";disenchantment,"; individualism and mass society, fascism and totalitarianism, conservatism and the defense of tradition, and the Enlightenment and political emancipation. We will also tackle the question of ";post-modernity.";