HIEU 544 Modernity, Postmodernism, and History Allan Megill University of Virginia
Fall Semester 2003
212 Randall Hall, Fridays 1:00-3:30 p.m.
Instructor Contact Information: Office Location: 221 Randall Hall.
Office Hours: usually M W 3:40-4:40, and by arrangement. You should not feel confined to my scheduled office hours. An efficient means of arranging appointment times is by e-mailing me, at firstname.lastname@example.org; it is best to e-mail me a day or two in advance. I can almost always arrange meetings at other times than the official hours. Note: On occasion I shall have to cancel office hours because of other obligations. It is a very good idea, therefore, to contact me ahead of time even if you plan to come during regularly scheduled hours. I cannot guarantee my presence at any particular scheduled office hour.
Telephone Numbers: Office: 924-6414 (voice-mail after several rings if there is no answer). Home: 971-8744 (answering machine after several rings). You should feel free to phone me at home: I prefer working there to working in Randall Hall. If we are otherwise occupied we generally don't answer the phone; but avoid 5 p.m.-9 p.m., and don't phone later than midnight (although, if you do, it doesn't matter, since the phone won't be heard anyway).
E-mail: email@example.com. Instructor home page: http://www.people.virginia.edu/~adm9e
Course home page: http:/toolkit.virginia.edu/HIST506
Course Subject and Rationale
The course is concerned with a nexus of issues having to do with modernity, postmodernism, history, and time. We shall adopt, at least provisionally, a broad understanding of each of those terms. The basic term is clearly modernism, on which there is a huge literature. If you want to look, one useful although somewhat dated collection is Modernism, 1890-1930, ed. Malcolm Bradbury and James McFarlane (Harmondsworth, England, 1976). Bradbury and McFarlane treat modernism as an emergent aesthetic movement. In our time, the fashion is to treat it as a source of oppression and alienation. Four movies of the last twenty years seem to me to offer vivid representations of the alleged darker side of modernism, and you might want to remind yourselves of them: Blade Runner (1982), Brazil (1985), Total Recall (1990),, and The Matrix (1999). Of course, the examples could be multiplied. Although it is now somewhat dated, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (Port Townsend, Wash., 1983) provides an overview of “postmodernism” at a interesting moment that is now twenty years in the past.
As is usual with my 500-level courses, I teach the course at the same time that I engage in writing projects related to the course. Over the length the semester I may well introduce one or two of these projects to you. One difference between this course and most of my courses at a similar level is that we will focus on a limited selection of books.
The course is intended to provide an opportunity for advanced undergraduates and graduate students to do three different but interrelated things: first, to read a number of quite stimulating works of philosophy and theory; second, to reflect on a particular set of themes having to do with modernity, postmodernity, history, and time; and third, to write a 20-25 page research paper on a topic related to the theme or to one or more of the authors who have written on issues of modernity, postmodernism, or history.
Characteristically, the class is taken by students who would like to have the opportunity to write a fairly substantial seminar-type paper. Additional requirements are: doing the reading, contributing to discussion, writing up class minutes on occasion, and offering reports on reading on occasion. Students taking the class for credit will be expected to offer a 10 or 12 minute oral introduction to the reading for one of our weekly sessions.
Undergraduates and graduate students should both take the paper-writing requirement as an occasion to be somewhat exploratory. Undergraduates might well take the course as an occasion to explore a possible senior thesis topic, or to work up some piece of a thesis that has already been embarked upon, or to produce a paper that, with revisions, might accompany a graduate school application. Of course, one might also just want to explore in more depth than previously some subject that one is interested in. Graduate students should attempt to gear their papers toward their comprehensives and/or toward their M. A. thesis or dissertation projects.
All books will be on reserve, and available for purchase at the University of Virginia Bookstore.
Arthur C. Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace
Rita Felski, Doing Time
Raymond Geuss, Morality, Culture, and History: Essays on German Philosophy
Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present
Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918
Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial
Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society
Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
John Marks, Gilles Deleuze: Vitalism and Multiplicity
Gianni Vattimo, The End of Modernity
Schedule of Work
The schedule is somewhat tentative, although in general I shall try to stick to it. It is possible that sometimes the reading for one week will generate issues or problems that will require us to continue some discussion of it the following week. It is also possible that special occasions will arise that will we, as a class, ought to take advantage of, and that will require reorienting the schedule. I should also note that, in general, I expect that each student will present some sort of draft of his or her paper in class, and I have left time for this in the schedule.
Session 1: Friday, August 29, 2003 : An Introduction to the Subject Matter. Rationale for the Course.
Students will also be asked to introduce themselves, and I shall make an initial attempt to assign to students the task of introducing, later in the semester, one of the books that we shall be reading.
Session 2: Friday, Sept. 5, 2003: Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition [to be introduced by Nate Ashley]
Session 3: Friday, Sept. 12, 2003: Reinhart Koselleck, Critique and Crisis: Enlightenment and the Pathogenesis of Modern Society [to be introduced by Tom Bryan]
Session 4: Friday, Sept. 19, 2003: Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918
Session 5: Friday, Sept. 26, 2003: Rita Felski, Doing Time
Session 6: Friday, Oct. 3, 2003: Arthur C. Danto, The Transfiguration of the Commonplace
Session 7: Friday, Oct. 10, 2003: Raymond Geuss, Morality, Culture, and History: Essays on German Philosophy
No classes on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 13 and 13 (Reading Holiday)
Session 8: Friday, Oct. 17, 2003: Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial
Session 9: Friday, Oct. 24, 2003: David Pickus of Arizona State University is scheduled to give a talk on “Walter Kaufmann and the Reception of Existentialism.” starting at 2:00 pm, in the context of the political theory seminar. Place of meeting to be arranged. This will replace our regular session today.
Session 10: Friday, Oct. 31, 2003: Gianni Vattimo, The End of Modernity
Session 11: Friday, Nov. 7, 2003: John Marks, Gilles Deleuze: Vitalism and Multiplicity
Session 12, Friday, Nov. 14, 2003: Fredric Jameson, A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present
Thanksgiving Recess: Wed. Nov. 26 – Sun. Nov. 30.
Session 13: Friday, Nov. 21, 2003 / Session 14: Friday, Dec. 5, 2003 / Friday, Dec. 12, 2003
These three sessions are for student presentation of paper drafts and for mop-up. [Note: I may prefer that some people present their drafts earlier, taking up (say) a twenty-five minute segment of a regular class period. Also, there is always the possibility of a make-up class during the week of Dec. 15.