Honors | Ideas and Experience - Modern
H212 | 0003 | H. Remak


FOCUS:  Individual, Family, Society, Religion
NOTE:  H211 is not a prerequisite for H212 although it may be helpful.

We will read and discuss some of the great texts, literary and
otherwise, from mid-18th to mid-20th century, asking ourselves: what
do they have to say about the relationship between the individual,
male and female, and the collective units (family, community, society
-at-large, culture, nation, religion) of which she and he are a part?
Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality of Independence, 1776, the
Declaration of the Rights of Man, 1789) and the subsequent rise of
socialism and communism: init he traces the downfall of man,
originally an independent, happy, and good human being, through the
formation of monopolistic social units like the family and society
which develop their privileges at the expense of the weak. The French
Revolution elicited an eloquent conservative reaction from Edmund
Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790). Buchner's
Woyzeck (1835), depicting a poor soldier driven by existential
exploitation of the individual into a personal tragedy and prepares us
for Marx, the founder of modern socialism and communism (selections
from On Society and Social Change).

The quandaries of women find powerful expression in Shelley's The
Cenci (1819), John Stuart Mill's The Subjection of Women (1861),
Dostoevski's Notes from the Underground, Part II (1864), and Kate
Chopin's The Awakending (1898).

The dehumanization of the individual playing the success game of
society, and his Christian rehumanization on the deathbed, are the
subject of Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilyich (1886).

Simultaneously, on a more political/economic level, Ibsen's truth-
seeking hero, a public health physician, is beleaguered by the
Establishment, its vested interests, and turncoat liberals, but defies
the odds (An Enemy of the People, 1882). While Nietzsche shatters all
taboos, especially Christianity, with his philosophy of strength (
selections from Beyond Good and Evil, 1886), Dostoevski and Freud
precipitate the inward revolution by their discovery of the uncharted
depths of the human psyche (Notes from Underground, 1864; Civilization
and its Discontents, 1930), which also marks the work of Kafka (Letter
to his Father, 1919, and other letters). We end with a realistic but
courageous assessment of our existential plight culminating in a
pragmatic ethic (Camus, The Plague, 1947).

So much for the sequence and rationale of our readings. I do not like
pinning ourselves down to a day-to-day schedule laid down months in
advance. I prefer to find out more about our group, its backgrounds,
and its interests before making such specific projections. After the
first two or three meetings you will get a two to three week
projection of the schedule; later on it may cover a longer period of
time.