HST 338                                                                                                               Peter Vinten-Johansen
Spring 2002

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 with regard
     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.

Required Reading

I asked local bookstores to order the following paperback editions, only. I was guided in my selection by the
quality of the translations (when applicable), format, introductions (when applicable), and cost. I always
selected the least expensive edition that met these specifications. However, publishers do not always stock
all books listed as “in-print,” and sometimes the bookstores substitute one edition for another, particularly
when they have any used copies of a particular title in stock. Consequently, we must clarify in advance
which editions you are using to be sure there are no misunderstandings about what is assigned for each class
meeting. But  I strongly encourage you to select the editions listed below:

BRITTAIN, V.          Testament of Youth                                     Penguin, 1994
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.

Reading Worksheets

Critical reading is the basis of informed, productive discussion. I believe critical reading involves three
interrelated steps, each of which has an associated exercise:

 –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 for remaining
          substantive paragraphs (all topic sentences and the quotes you would analyze if this were a
          complete essay).

               Essay #2: Thesis paragraph + two substantiating paragraphs + skeletal format for remaining
          substantive paragraphs (all topic sentences and the quotes you would analyze if this were a
          complete essay).

              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.


You are expected to keep all reading worksheets in the right side of a double-sided folder. Organize
sheets by authors, not the type of exercise. Append any additional reading notes, too, if you prepared them.
On the left side, place the writing exercises and essays, with the exercises behind the appropriate essays.
Append any preliminary drafts of the essays that you may have made and kept. Be sure to bring your
processfolio with you to all class meetings and to my office hours if you decide to come. Around mid-
semester I will distribute a checklist of what your processfolio should contain and compare it with my
records. The course processfolio is due on the last day of classes before finals week.

Figuring the Course Mark

40% for Preparation and Participation (P&P). Every student begins with a P&P mark of 4.0. To maintain
this portion of the course mark you must:

          1. Attend class in a regular and timely manner; you cannot participate unless you are present. Every
     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 the
     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

Read “The Conjugial Angel” in Byatt’s Angels and Insects. Prepare SoA and TC worksheets; for the latter,
cluster for fin-de-siècle themes in the novella. Write an interpretive essay that assesses Byatt’s effectiveness
in presenting a work of historical fiction.

University Incomplete Policy

To avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings at the end of the semester, I have transcribed the current
University guidelines on Incompletes:

  "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.

Office Hours

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 of the
          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.