Honors | Ideas and Experience - Modern
H212 | 0004 | Brogan
H212 is a selective examination of important documents in
Western history from the 17th century to the present. Although in the
limited time of a single semester we cannot expect to be
comprehensive, we will examine important work from a variety of
different periods and cultures. In addition to becoming familiar with
such widely different writers as Molière and Rousseau, Goethe and
Wordsworth, Darwin and Freud, Whitman and Baldwin, we will also learn
something of the ages and cultures which produced them. Terms such as
Neo-classicism and Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism, Modernism and
Post-modernism will be explained as we proceed, and used as background
to the texts.
Our approach will follow common sense. The first thing we
wish to do when we read a piece of literature is to understand what
the writer is saying. Once we have done that, we can begin to address
other matters, such as how the various ideas and attitudes are
conveyed, or fit within the historical context. How do we know that
Tartuffe's piety isn't genuine? Why does Swift recommend that
children of the poor be roasted and eaten? To what extent are the
ideas of Dickens and Darwin influenced by the conventions of prose
narrative? What do Dostoevsky's obsessions have in common with
Freudian psychology? These questions, and others like them, will
assist us in determining the purposes of the various writers, and the
means by which they accomplish them. Though we expect to cover a wide
range of material, we can stop at any point and examine a given work
in greater detail.
The reading load will be moderate. Class discussion, intended
to be vigorous and freewheeling, depends on having read and thought
about the material beforehand. We will all learn more, and have more
fun, if everyone takes part. Lecturing will occur from time to time,
as necessary, but never so often as to give students the idea that
they can come to class passive and unprepared.
Students can expect to write 5 or 6 papers of 3-4 pages, each.
Short quizzes may be given from time to time to make sure that
everyone keeps up with the reading. Grades will be determined
primarily by the quality of the papers handed in, though class
discussion will be taken into account, especially in borderline
Attendance is mandatory. Repeated absences will result in a
lower grade for the course, and in extreme cases, failure.