EUROPEAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY:
Modernism and Post-Modernism
In April 1997, the Department of History approved the following as the goals for its undergraduate major:
Through the careful
assessment of a variety of texts it [the major] teaches critical reading
to authors' arguments, logic and assumptions. It promotes interpretive writing by requiring students
to produce historical essays with clear, explicit theses, unified argumentation presented in a logical
fashion, and analysis based on supporting evidence. The major particularly teaches students to apply
these transferable skills to understanding historical context: history students are expected to
demonstrate, orally and in writing, knowledge of events, ideas and patterns of human behavior and
social organization which have occurred in discrete periods of time among clearly defined groups of
people in specific locations.
Since critical reading and interpretive writing are facilities characteristic
of every educated person,
regardless of disciplinary training, I designed the two-course sequence in modern European intellectual
history to train students in the analysis and interpretation of historical source materials even though the
majority of enrollees are not History majors.. There are no course prerequisites for either course. The only
restriction is completion of the Tier I writing requirement.
HST 338 is a continuation of subject matter covered in HST 337, which
featured the Scientific Revolution
of the 17th century in western Europe, the 18th century Enlightenment, the Romantic reaction between 1770
and the 1830s, and movements during the middle third of the 19th century that sought a synthesis of
Enlightenment and Romantic concepts and values. We will review these intellectual movements and
worldviews several weeks into HST 338 when reading Thomas Mann’s novel about several generations of a
19th-century family, the Buddenbrooks.
The thematic focus of HST 338 is modernism and various reactions to
it that has become a catch-all term,
post-modernism. By the middle of the 19th century, the major ideas, attitudes, and behaviors associated in
the western world with “modernism” were in place–and remain so to the present day. Chief among these is
classical liberalism, the notion that the progress of mankind is enhanced when rational individuals have
largely unrestricted use of life, liberty, and property. Also central to the modern worldview is the belief that
the methodology employed in the natural sciences should be a model for all forms of progressive human
inquiry. Frequently, classical liberalism and natural science are considered collaborative paradigms in
modernism. But they can be at odds, as in Marxist socialism, which evolved into a major oppositional
doctrine within modernism by the turn of the 20th century as classical liberalism shifted from a radical
critique of contemporary society into a conservative movement.
We begin the course with a study of “Developmentalism”–three intellectual
movements during the second
half of the 19th century, all of which envisioned the emergence of new socio-cultural institutions and
worldviews after mid-century, revolutionary upheavals. That is, Marxist socialism, naturalism, and
Darwinian evolution by natural selection differed from classical liberalism by interpreting chance and
violence as forces for progressive change rather than aberrations in a rational plan for human betterment. In
the last two decades of the 19th century, however, distinctive counter-modernist movements began to appear.
These fin-de-siècle, or end-of-century, critiques of modernism included spiritualism, social and intellectual
degeneration, and apotheoses of irrationality and the unconscious. World War I complemented the fin-de-
siècle’s critique of the “Enlightenment project.” After 1918, relativistic science, socialist revolutions, global
economic depressions, fascist movements, existentialism, and a florescence of ethnic conflict and
fundamentalism since the end of the cold war made decidedly post-modern imprints on the twentieth
century. Modernism remained vigorous, however, producing post-World War II initiatives such as European
integration and the welfare state. The neo-liberal (in U.S., conservative) turn that lasted from the 1970s until
the mid-1990s was an attempt to update classical liberalism–as is the current incorporation of market
principles by Social Democratic and Labor governments.
BRITTAIN, V. Testament
BYATT, A. S. Angels and Insects Vintage, 1992
CAMUS, A. The Plague Vintage, 1991
FORSTER, E. M. A Room with a View Vintage, 1986
HARE, D. Racing Demon Faber & Faber, 1995
IGNATIEFF, M. The Warrior’s Honor Henry Holt, 1998
JÜNGER, E. Storm of Steel Howard Fertig, 1996
LEVI, P. Survival in Auschwitz Simon & Schuster, 1993
LIGHTMAN, A. Einstein’s Dreams Warner Books, 1993
MANN, T Buddenbrooks Vintage, 1994
ORWELL, G. Road to Wigan Pier Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1958
STOPPARD, T. Hapgood Faber & Faber, 1994
ZOLA, É. Germinal Penguin, 1954
In addition, everyone is expected to consult Diana Hacker’s Pocket Style
Manual (3rd edition) for the
“Chicago style” format for documentation and bibliography expected in this course, as well as resolving
specific problems with respect to grammar and syntax.
–summarizing the text by chapters and/or parts via Summation (S) worksheets;
–constructing the logic of an author's argument via Structure of Argument (SoA) worksheets;
–extracting evidence from the text on specific topics via Thematic Clustering
(TC) worksheets for use in class
discussion and interpretive writing.
We will use class time during the opening weeks of the semester to orient
everyone to worksheet
expectations; that is, we will initially prepare worksheets together on the day a particular reading assignment
is due. After the orientation period, reading and worksheet assignments will often be out of sync with class
discussion; you will then be expected to hand in reading worksheets for the assigned meting for me to
review prior to discussion at the subsequent meeting. I will inform you in class which worksheet(s) you are
expected to complete for each book; if you miss class, please consult a classmate, myself, or the minutes of
class meetings posted on the internet at http://coursesa.matrix.msu.edu/~hst337 (note, please, that there is
one home page for HST 337 and HST 338). We will attempt to update the minutes by the following day.
I will mark reading worksheets on a ?/?-minus system:
A ? means that, in my judgment, the exercise reflects sufficient preparation
of the assignment for
you to make constructive contributions to class discussion.
A ?-minus means either that the preparation seems inadequate for constructive
contributions, or that
you misunderstood what was expected.
Ideally you should redo an exercise sheet on which you received a ?-minus
within one week of when it was
returned to you. Please hand in revised worksheets, with the ?-minus version attached.
Writing Exercises and Essays
Critical reading is a preliminary to writing an interpretive historical essay, sometimes called a “thesis-
driven” essay. The variation I’ve developed for teaching purposes since the mid-1970s contains, in its
complete form, the following elements:
(1) an opening thesis-paragraph that contains a question extracted from
the reading(s) that is amenable to
historical treatment (the historical problem), any definitions and context necessary to clarify that problem,
and a thesis statement–your interpretation of the text(s) with respect to the particular historical problem,
and the worldview it represents;
(2) a logically organized argument in support of your thesis, substantiated
by the analysis of specific evidence
drawn from the reading(s); and
(3) a concluding paragraph in which you recapitulate your argument.
I do not assume that course participants already know how to write such
an essay. One of the course
objectives is to train you in historical writing. I will periodically assign writing exercises that give you
practice in constructing the historical essay form outlined above. Such writing exercises are marked on the
same ?/?-minus system used for the reading worksheets.
All course participants who have not taken HST 337 with me are expected
to write three interpretive
historical essays, as follows:
Essay #1: Thesis paragraph + one substantiating paragraph + skeletal format
substantive paragraphs (all topic sentences and the quotes you would analyze if this were a
Essay #2: Thesis paragraph + two substantiating paragraphs + skeletal format
substantive paragraphs (all topic sentences and the quotes you would analyze if this were a
Essay #3: A complete essay.
Each essay is marked on the basis of the grading criteria attached to
the syllabus. For most students,
successive essays yield higher grades as you become increasingly familiar with the expectations and
increasingly accomplished in carrying them out. Where such a pattern of improvement exists, the higher
grade on successive essays replaces the previous grade as the essay portion of the course mark.
Students who have completed HST 337 with me have a choice of following
the essay expectations outlined
above or developing (in consultation with me) an alternative but equivalent writing component such as an
expanded research essay or similar project.
Figuring the Course Mark
1. Attend class
in a regular and timely manner; you cannot participate unless you are present.
student has one personal-business “cut” without penalty. Every absence beyond one reduces the
P&P mark by 0.3, each. Three tardies/early departures equal one absence.
2. Hand in worksheets
and writing exercises on time and receive ?s on all such assignments. Any
worksheets missing from the processfolio at the end of the semester, as well as uncleared ?-
minuses, reduce the P&P mark by 0.2 each.
3. Maintain a
complete and properly organized processfolio. During the final review of
processfolios and after figuring a preliminary P&P mark (using 1 and 2 above), the instructor will
assign a quality adjustment (between minus 1.0 and plus 1.0) to the preliminary P&P mark, based on
the thoroughness of the worksheets and the timeliness, or lack thereof, in submitting them.
40% for interpretive essays or alternative writing project:
Three interpretive essays that meet expectations set forth earlier in the syllabus and marked
according to the attached grading criteria. Improvement factor will be used, if possible. If there is no pattern
of improvement, the first essay will count 10%, the second and third 15% each. Those who chose an
alternative writing project will be marked in accordance with an agreement prepared in advance.
20% for the final examination project:
Reading worksheets, writing exercises, and a skeletal essay on readings since the third essay are due
at the beginning of the final examination period. There is no in-class final, but attendance is mandatory and
there will be various scheduled activities in addition to writing course evaluations.
Extra Credit or Honors Option
University Incomplete Policy
"The I-Incomplete may be given only when: the student (a) has
completed at least 12 weeks of the
semester, but is unable to complete the class work and/or take the final examination because of illness or
other compelling reason; and (b) has done satisfactory work in the course; and (c) in the instructor's
judgment can complete the required work without repeating the course" (Academic Programs 2000-2002,
I will interpret the phrase, “completed at least 12 weeks of the semester,”
to mean that you have turned in all
assigned reading worksheets, writing exercises, and essays through the 12th week of the semester.
Tuesdays, 4:00 - 5:00,
Wednesdays, 2:45 - 3:45,
and by appointment
328 Morrill Hall
353-9417 (answering machine)
Home telephone number: 332-3316 (no answering machine)
Grading Criteria for Interpretive Historical Essays
The grading criteria reflect how well you accomplish the expected format
for interpretive, historical essays: (1) an
opening thesis paragraph containing an historical problem/question, definitions and relevant historical context, and a
thesis statement containing declarative (WHAT happened & HOW) and explanatory (WHY significant) components;
(2) substantiating paragraphs that offer a logical explication of your thesis statement via use of complete topic
sentences and analysis of supporting evidence. The 3rd essay should also contain a conclusion in which you
recapitulate your thesis, particularly the significance of your interpretation for understanding the author and context.
Citations should be parenthetical--(author, page)--for all quotations and paraphrases. Attach a bibliographical list of
all works cited in your essay.
Few essays fall entirely within one grade rubric. Therefore, the
awarded essay mark usually reflects a composite of
strengths and weaknesses from several of the following rubrics.
4.0 Thesis paragraph conforms to
all expectations. Substantiating paragraphs reflect a logical progression
argument, including effective topic sentences. Sufficient evidence to substantiate the thesis statement. Proper
use of syntax, grammar, and diction throughout the essay. No/very few proofreading errors.
3.5 Thesis paragraph conforms to all expectations
except that one component of the thesis statement is somewhat
problematical. Substantiation falls between expectations for a 3.0 and a 4.0.
3.0 All elements of the thesis paragraph
are present. Thesis contains declarative and explanatory components, but
one is either significantly incomplete or unclear. Substantiating paragraphs have topic sentences with
promising analytical potential (make connections to thesis statement). Use of short quotations is the norm but
inconsistent. Promising but incomplete analysis of quotes and paraphrases; that is, the essay lacks evidence to
fully explain the meaning and significance of the thesis statement. Stylistic problems, if any, do not obscure
the argument. Proofreading errors, if any, are infrequent.
2.5 Thesis paragraph missing historical
problem or context/definitions. Thesis statement contains declarative and
explanatory components, but both are either incomplete or unclear. Substantiating paragraphs have topic
sentences but lack explicit connections to the thesis statement. Quotations present but sometimes
2.0 Thesis paragraph missing historical
problem and context/definitions. Thesis statement contains declarative
and explanatory components, but both are either incomplete or unclear. Topic sentences present but open-
ended or vague. Quotations present but very little/no explanation. Stylistic problems occasionally obscure
intended meaning. Frequent proofreading errors.
1.5 Thesis paragraph contains a statement
of intent rather than a thesis statement. Unclear or problematical
organization of substantiating paragraphs. Majority of evidence is in the form of paraphrasing from assigned
1.0 Paper on assigned topic and using
assigned reading, but it doesn’t follow expectations for interpretive
historical essays. Summation dominates paper. Stylistic problems often obscure intended meaning, but paper
as a whole can be understood by instructor. No apparent proofreading.
0.0 Paper not on assigned topic or does not draw on assigned reading.
Stylistic problems prevent instructor from
understanding significant portions of the paper.