West European Studies | Special Topics in West Eur Studies: The Idea of Europe
W406 | 15614 | Rasch, W
9:30A-10:45A TR WH 114 3 cr.
Above class meets with GER-E 322.
In this course we will look at basic patterns of establishing
national identities within Europe and a common identity of Europe
itself. The focus will be historical and will not deal with
contemporary Europe except by implication.
Using Spain and Germany as “case studies” of sorts, we will look at
the type of quasi-mythical history each constructed for itself based
on particular, if not peculiar, readings of the past. Similarly,
using the Crusades, the 16th-century discovery/settlement/
occupation/conquest (take your pick) of America, and philosophical
texts from the 17th and 18th centuries, we will look at historical
attempts to imagine the unity of Europe in contrast to the non-
European world. One operating presupposition will be that
collective political and cultural identities are fashioned in terms
of what and who they are not. In other words, we will examine in
what way “selves” are determine by the idea of their “others,”
or “friends” by their “enemies.”
We will read primary texts (in translation), such as El Cid and
Tacitus’s Germania, receptions of those texts that seem to be guided
by identifiable political/ideological interests, and contemporary
critical readings of those receptions (that themselves may have
identifiable axes to grind). In other words, the course will be an
exercise in reading literary and scholarly texts critically in an
attempt to assess and not merely absorb what one learns. Students
will be encouraged to evaluate whatever axes are being ground in the
classroom as well.
So, in short: The purpose of the class is at least twofold: 1) to
make ourselves aware of possible recurrent patterns in European
history that may give us a historically and theoretically rich
background understanding of contemporary Europe’s attempt to form,
as the saying goes, “a more perfect union,” and 2) to develop tools
that one can use to examine assumptions found in the literature we
read and even, with luck, in ourselves.
Active classroom discussion and regular short writing assignments
will be the basis of evaluation. Come prepared to think and talk.