Fall 2003                                                                                                                                                  Mr. Cohen

History 440: Modern/Postmodern (1885-2001)

Required Texts

Cahoone, Lawrence E. (ed.), From Modernism to Postmodernism (Blackwell)

Schorske, Carl, Fin de Siècle Vienna (Vintage)

Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (Vintage)

Freud, Sigmund, Dora: An Analysis of a Case History (Simon and Schuster)

Foucault, Michel, A History of Sexuality (Volume I) (Random)

Kafka, Franz, The Metamorphosis (Bantam)


On Reserve (and/or e-Reserve)

Bullock, Alan, “The Double Image”

Einstein, Albert, Relativity

Weber, Max, Protestant Ethic (selection)

Toennies, Ferdinand, “The Individual in the Modern World”

Derrida, Jacques, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”

Cixous, Hélène, The Laugh of the Medusa (selection)

De Beauvoir, Simone, The Second Sex (selection)

Baudrillard, Jean, “L’Esprit du Terrorisme”

Baudrillard, Jean, “The Procession of Simulcra”

Powell, Jim, Postmodernism for Beginners

Sim, Stuart, The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism

University of Colorado Postmodern Thought Site


Course Requirements

History 440 is designed to be a seminar and not a lecture course; therefore, both class attendance and participation will constitute a portion (approximately 10%) of your final grade. In addition, each student will be required to complete three 2-3 page papers chosen from the topics listed below, a 1-page preliminary research prospectus, and a full research prospectus of at least 10 pages (see instructions at the end of the syllabus). Students will also be required to report orally on their proposed research during the last week of the term; history majors may choose to complete their research papers in History 650 (The Practice of History). There will be an in-class final exam but no midterm.


Class Schedule

I) The Modern Narrative: Enlightenment Dreams of Self, Science, and Society

9/24  Introduction

9/26  Cahoone, From Modernism to Postmodernism, 1-23, 51-57, 72-82

9/29  Cahoone, 91-101


II) Modernism Materialized: Self, Science, and Society, 1885-1945

10/1  Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 2-32, 79-141

10/3  Nietzsche, 35-56, 141-170, 201-237; Cahoone, 103-04, 130

10/6  Bullock, Allan, “The Double Image” (see reserve) ; Schorske, Fin de Siècle Vienna, 24-115

10/8 Einstein, Relativity, 1-57

10/10-  Cahoone, 157-176; Weber, Protestant Ethic (see reserve)


10/15 Toennies, “The Individual in the Modern World” (see reserve)

10/17 Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case History

10/20 Freud, continued

10/22  Schorske, 322-366

10/24 Schorske, 116-181; Cahoone, 185-190

10/27 Kafka, The Metamorphosis

10/29   Cahoone, 259-265; De Beauvoir, The Second Sex (selection on reserve)


III) The Postmodern Critique: ‘Subject,’ Language, and Culture, 1960-present

10/31-11/3  Sim, Postmodernism, 3-15 (see reserve); Cahoone, 77-84; Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” (see reserve)


11/11 RESEARCH TOPICS DUE; Cahoone, 309-324, 481-513

11/10- Foucault, A History of Sexuality [entire]; Cahoone, 379-381


11/14 Cahoone, 461-468; Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa (see reserve)

11/17 Baudrillard, “The Procession of Simulcra” (see reserve)

11/19 Baudrillard, “L’Esprit du Terrorisme” (see reserve)

11/21 Cahoone, 589-616; Sim, Postmodernism, 28-40

11/24 Research Topic Workshop (see end of syllabus for instructions)


12/1   Oral Reports

12/3   Oral Reports  

12/5   Catch up and review; RESEARCH PROSPECTUS DUE 


Short Paper Topics

Note: All responses to these questions should be informed by a knowledge of the historical contexts to which they refer.

I.                    Write a 2-3-page paper on one of the following:

a.       Compare and contrast the views of Condorcet and Marx & Engels on human reason and its relationship to historical progress. Where do they agree, where do they disagree, and why?

b.      How does Nietzsche view science, progress, and their relationship to human reason?

c.       How does Einstein view scientific knowledge and its relationship to the human self?

d.      How does Max Weber view science, rationality and their relationship to historical progress?


II.                 Write a 2-3-page paper on one of the following:

a.       How does Freud view scientific knowledge and its relationship to the human self?

b.       What does Carl Schorske mean by the phrase “politics in a sharper key”? How might the Italian futurists fit into his model?

c.      How does Kafka view the human self and its relationship to society?


III.               Write a 2-3-page paper on one of the following:

a.       What does Lyotard mean by the phrase “incredulity toward metanarratives”? How does it relate to the question of scientific knowledge?

b.      What is Foucault’s thesis in The History of Sexuality, Volume I? What is his view of the human ‘subject’? Of the human sciences?

c.       Compare and contrast the feminist views of Simone De Beauvoir and Hélène Cixous. Where do they agree, where do they disagree, and why?

d.      What is Jean Baudrillard’s view of September 11? How does it square—or not—with his prior views of the media, “simulacra,” and the “hyperreal”?


Research Prospectus (10 pages)

            All students must define and present a topic for further research. You may focus on an individual (e.g., Nietzsche, Foucault, Cixous), subject area (e.g., science, the arts), or theme (e.g., “feminist responses to postmodernism”). One possible point of departure might be the twelve short paper topics listed above, but you need not remain within the confines of the syllabus. You may, for example, wish to explore a modernist writer such as Joseph Conrad or Virginia Woolf, postmodern motifs in European films of the 1980s, or a modern or postmodern thinker (e.g., Martin Heidegger, Gilles Deleuze) whom we have not addressed in class. Your topic must, however: 1) relate to the general topic of the seminar, 2) be based on primary sources, and 3) demonstrate a familiarity with the most relevant secondary scholarship.

            Your final prospectus, accordingly, should include:

bulletA question of historical significance that you intend to address
bulletA conceivable answer to that question—that is, a thesis, argument, or hypothesis that you intend to test
bulletAn explanation of how your question has been treated by other scholars, and how your approach will differ from theirs
bulletAn account of what sources and evidence you will use
bulletA sense of how you will organize your research paper
bulletA bibliography of no less than twelve works, including both primary and secondary sources

Research Topic Workshop

        On November 24 (the class meeting before Thanksgiving Break) each student will prepare a preliminary research prospectus and bring enough copies of it to distribute to the class. The prosepectus should consist of 1) a working title; 2) a one page description of your proposed topic; and 3) a preliminary bibliography. The class will read and interrogate each one in turn.