Western Experiences in the Era of Modernity

HNRS 136

Cristofer Scarboro 



Class Meetings:  Section H MWF 8:00-9:00 (H-M 511)

                             Section H1 MWF 9:00-10:00 (H-M 511)

Office:                 H-M 314

Office Hours:     M/W: 2:00-3:00 T/Th 10:00-12:00         

E-mail:                cristoferscarboro@kings.edu

Phone:                  208-5900 ext. 5637

Sharepoint:          http://sharepoint.kings.edu/sites/HNRS204/default.aspx


I.  Course Description

This course will survey Western Civilizations since the three great modern revolutions--the Scientific, Industrial and French--with an emphasis on the social and cultural forces and ideas that have shaped Western societies. In coordination with other honors classes on Art, Literature, Philosophy and Theology, this class will emphasize the political, social cultural and economic perils and possibilities encountered by the “Western World” since the 17th century. Subjects discussed in the class will include such topics as, the invention of the "West" and "Western Civilization" and its perils and possibilities, the revolutionary transformation of daily life by new science and technologies; visions of a global economic interdependence arising out of rapid industrialization and urbanization; new understandings of the world created and mirrored by revolutions in art and literature; the rise of a mass consumer culture; socialism and socialist humanism; feminism; colonialism, decolonialization and the collapse of European Empires; evolutions in understandings of sex and leisure; the creation and disintegration of the Soviet Union and socialist regimes in Eastern Europe; conflicts among evolving, ascendant and declining social classes and interest groups; contestation over cultural forms; liberal democracy and its discontents.


II. Purpose


II. Purpose

Civilization courses are designed to explore in some depth the complex dimensions of our world and the cumulative experience of the past, to provide an understanding of how yesterday influences today and the outlook for tomorrow.  We study the major developments of Western peoples because most of the problems and institutions of contemporary society have distinguishable roots in the historical past.  Moreover, because of the physical and material expansion of the West in the modern period, many of these forms have, for good or ill, become global in nature.  Understanding and critiquing the place of western civilization is a fundamental to making sense of the world today.


Writing and reading history are political acts that are about framing the world in a particular way.  How to come to terms with history, how to glean its role in shaping us as human beings, are fundamental questions that strike at the heart of our very notion of ourselves as individuals.  How we understand history is, at its root, an act of self-definition.  As such, History is fundamental to liberal arts education.  The discipline of history gives us better understanding of ourselves and culture, of the cultures and practices of others while honing academic skills and the ability to think critically.  History resides in the knotty interplay of countless cultural forces—the charge of this class is to enable our students to understand and convey the complexity of historical events clearly. While we understand that not all of our students will become academic historians or even history majors, the skills they develop and hone in our history courses: to analyze insightfully, think critically, and express ideas clearly and persuasively, will serve them well in any field that they choose to enter.


III. Course Objectives

Objectives for the student: 

·        To understand history as a series of competing and reinforcing historiograhical narratives.

·        To understand and participate in the production of historical narratives and to evaluate competing historical and historiographical claims.

·        To develop a familiarity with the use of historical sources (both primary and secondary).

·        To develop critical reading skills through demonstrated through class participation, written assignments and group presentations. 


Goals for the student:

·        To improve understanding of the major events which have influenced the modern world.

·         To understand the influence of the past on contemporary events and problems, or, in other words, to develop Historical Mindedness.

·        To be an intelligent consumer and evaluator of information about events in the world.


General Learning Outcomes for the student:

·        To manage information, which involves sorting data, ranking data for significance, synthesizing facts, concepts and principles.

·        To understand and use organizing principles or key concepts against which miscellaneous data can be evaluated.

·        To differentiate between facts, opinions and inferences.

·        To frame questions so as to more clearly clarify a problem, topic or issue.

·        To compare and contrast the relative merits of opposing arguments and interpretations, moving between the main points of each position.

·        To organize your thoughts and communicate them clearly and concisely in written form.

·        To obtain practice in selecting and presenting information and arguments within a restricted environment, especially the limitations of time in exams.


IV. General Course Requirements:


A. Course Readings:

Alloula, Malek, The Colonial Harem, University of Minnesota Press, 1986


Arendt, Hannah, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Penguin Classics, 2006


Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and its Discontents, W. W. Norton, 2005


Pavlac, Brian, Supremacies and Diversities: A Review of Western Civilization, Select

Sections, draft ed. Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania: Zelbstdrook press, 2009.


Said, Edward, Out of Place, Vintage, 1999


Spiegelman, Art, Maus: A Survivors Tale: My Father Bleeds History / Here My Troubles Began (Boxed Set), Pantheon; Boxed edition, 1993


B. Course Films:

Becker, Wolfgang, Goodbye Lenin, Sony Pictures, 2003


Chaplin, Charlie, Modern Times, 1936


Kubrick, Stanley, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968


Schoedsack, King Kong, 1933


C. Class Participation and Class Attendance:

As well as providing you with the methodological and analytical tools for engaging in historical thinking, this class will ask you to actively take part in a larger conversation of historical issues within the class.  I expect this class to allow us to delve deeply into the historical topics of each week’s readings.  To that end, you need to make sure that you arrive to class on time ready to discuss the weekly readings, having carefully read and thought over the material.  You must take an active role in the class discussions.  Thus a portion of your grade will depend on your in-class performance and presence. 


In a class of this nature it goes without saying that a classroom environment in which everyone feels comfortable is essential.  You should treat your fellow classmates with respect, listen carefully to their comments and respond to them in a polite manner. 


King’s College regards student participation in class as essential to the learning process.  Therefore, regular class attendance is required of all students.  After three unexcused absences your class participation grade will drop a letter grade (from A to B).  Each subsequent absence will result in another letter grade deduction.  Please see the King’s College Student Handbook for policies regarding excusing absences and campus attendance policies.


Students are responsible for making up any work they miss while absent from class.  Work missed should be turned in the day you return from an excused absence (unless otherwise agreed to).  Late work due to an unexcused absence will be penalized a 1/3 a grade (from A to A-) for each day late.


E. Leading Class Discussion:

You will be responsible for leading class discussion twice during this semester.  This will entail reading the assigned text, song collection or film closely, arranging a list of topics and themes to discuss in class and preparing a series of questions to discuss during class.  You will e-mail a list of 8-10 questions to me and your classmates no later than 5:00 the evening before class so that we will have time to reflect on them and prepare responses.  


F. Written Assignments:

This class has two required written assignments: a research paper and a film or book review.


On the first day of class you will chose the group with whom you will be working to on your larger paper and in preparing and presenting your final group project.  Your paper topic will be closely coordinated with the other two members of your group as part of a larger theme that will link all three of your papers and the larger group project.  As a group you will meet with me either February 1st to chose your topics and lay the foundation for the rest of the semester’s group work.  Your individual papers will all contribute to the final project so you should be sure to closely collaborate with your peers.


You will turn in several copies of your paper (one for me and each of your group mates) on April 14th; the final draft is due May 5th.


Your second writing assignment is a film or book review.  You review which should be 2-3 pages is to interpret one of the texts from this class.  You are to place the film or book in historical context, analyze and interpret its message and meaning.  This review will be due in class at any time before May 5th.


G. Final Group Presentation

You will chose your final group project in your first meeting with me on February 1st and will be working on it in some fashion the entire semester.  Your papers will all deal with some aspect of the project and give you the foundation for the final in class presentation to be held the last meetings of the class.  Your project will be allotted for forty minutes with a question and answer session to follow.  You project should be multi-media and can include power-point images, music and video clips.  Like your paper your final Project will take place in several steps:


1)     On April 19th the group will present a written plan prospectus for the final project including detailed outlines of the topics covered and responsibilities designated to each group member.


2)      On April 21st the group will meet with me to plan the final preparations work for the group project. 


3)      Your final group presentation will be during the classes meeting from April 28th-May 5th.  After the presentation you will be required to turn in a letter grade for each of your group-mates’ work on the project.  This grade will factor into the final grade of each member for his/her work on the project. 


H. Exams:

This class will also require a midterm take-home examination to be turned in on March 3rd and a final examination to be held during finals week. 


Both of these exams will be composed of questions that you submit focusing on the central themes of the course.  Questions for the midterm are due by e-mail by February 17th and those for the final exam on April 28th.


I. Grading:

Your final grade will be based on the following percentages























Your grade distribution for assignments is as follows:


Class Part. / Leading Discussion


Research Paper


Film / Book Review


Group Presentation


Peer Review


Midterm Exam


Final Exam



J. Academic Integrity:

The Department of History adheres to guidelines on academic integrity outlined in the Student Conduct Code in the Student Handbook:  http://www.kings.edu/student_handbook/studentregulations_rights/conductcode.htm


Cheating and plagiarism will be penalized in accord with the penalties and procedures indicated in that source.  All students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the definition of these infractions of academic honesty.


K. Disabilities:

 King’s College and this instructor will make every effort to accommodate students with a bona-fide disability that impacts on their ability to learn the course material.  Please meet with me privately so that appropriate arrangements can be made to help in the learning process.


IV. Course Schedule:


I. The Birth of the Modern


Introduction: Monday, January 18th


What is the “West”? What is “Civilization”?  What’s the Point?

Wednesday, January 20th


The Political, Social and Cultural World of the 18th Century:

Absolutism and Enlightenment

Friday, January 22nd

*Pavlac, Chapter IX (151-183)

**Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?, 1784 <http://www.english.upenn.edu/~mgamer/Etexts/kant.html>

**J. S. Bach, Fugue No. 4: C Sharp Minor, 1747


**Sharepoint:  "Gardens of Versailles"


Discipline and Punish

Monday, January 25th   

**Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, 1976

        Part I. "Torture: the Body Condemned" <http://foucault.info/documents/disciplineAndPunish/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.torture.en.html>

        Part III. "Panopticism" <http://staff.kings.edu/cristoferscarboro/Panopticism.htm>


Birth of the Modern, Part I: the Scientific Revolution

Wednesday, January 27th   

**The Crime of Galileo: Indictment and Abjuration of 1633 <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1630galileo.html>


Birth of the Modern, Part II: the French Revolution and the Birth of the Nation

Friday, January 29th   

**Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, 1789 <http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/rightsof.htm>

**Johann Gottfried von Herder, Materials for the Philosophy of the History of Mankind (excerpts), 1784



No Class

Monday, February, 1st  


No Class

Wednesday, February 3rd


Birth of the Modern, Part III:  the Industrial Revolution

Friday, February 5th

*Pavlac, Chapter X (183-207)

**Andrew Ure, The Philosophy of the Manufacturers, 1835 <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1835ure.html> 


Birth of the Modern, Part IV: Colonialism

Monday February 8th

Pavlac, Chapter XI (207-237)


Snowpocalypse Now! The Class 3 Kill Storm of 2010

Wednesday, February 10th


Discussion:  Malek Alloula, Colonial Harem

Friday, February 12th

**Alloula, Colonial Harem



H1:    Christine Guarino

          Rachael Pompeii


The Making of the Western Middle Class and the Marxist Critique

Monday, February 15th

**Sharepoint: The Great Exhibition of 1851

**Freidrich Engels, Conditions of the Working Class in England, 1844 (excerpts) <http://www.cis.vt.edu/modernworld/d/Engels.html>



Empire in Europe / Europe in Empire and the Rise of European Nationalism

Wednesday, February 17th

**Johann Gottlieb Fichte, To the German Nation, 1806 <http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1806fichte.html

**Sharepoint: Europe in Empire /Empire in Europe

***Questions for Midterm Due via e-mail by 5:00***




Gauguin and Colonial Fantasies

Friday, February 19th


II.  Assault on the Modern:  The Modern and the Absurd


Discussion: Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Monday, February 22nd

Freud, Civilization and its Discontents 


H:      Ashley Bacher

H1:    Adam Brasky

         Madeline Schiminger


W. E. B. Dubois and “Double Consciousness”

Wednesday, February 24th


 World War I and the Death of the Modern (?)

Friday, Febraury 26th

** World War I Posters <<http://www.firstworldwar.com/posters/index.htm>>


The Great Depression and the Crisis of the Mind

Monday, March 1st

**Tzara,  Dada Manifesto, << http://www.ralphmag.org/AR/dada.html>>

Discussion: Modern Times

Wednesday, March 3rd

Chaplin. Modern Times


H:      Andrew St. Clair

H1:    Erika Samuels

         Rich Lanahan

***Midterm Due in Class***


Discussion: King Kong

Friday, March 5th

Shoedsack, King Kong


H:      Adam Sleboda

H1:    Dana Kavitski

         Jennie Hampton 


III.  The Modern Strikes Back


The Revolutions in Russia

Monday, March 15th  

*Pavlac, Chapter XII (237-271)


Fascism and Degenerate Art

Wednesday, March 17th

**Sharepoint: "Degenerate Art"


The Holocaust and the Death of the Modern (!)

Friday, March 19th

**The Jager Report, 1941 <http://fcit.usf.edu/Holocaust/resource/document/DocJager.htm>

**Sharepoint: Elwira Bauer, Trust no Fox on his Green Heath


Discussion: Spiegelman, Maus I and II

Wednesday, March 24th

Speigelman, Maus


H:      Andrew St. Clair

H1:    Dave Centak

         Erica Pandolfo

         Isabel Silva


Discussion: Eichmann in Jerusalem 

Monday, March 22nd   

**Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem


H:      Cathy Traino

H1:    Laura Panzitta

         Christine Guarino 


IV. Postmodernism and its Discontents


“Sovietization” and “Normalization” in Europe

Friday, March 26th

*Pavlac, Chapter XIII (271-301)


Cold War and Atomic Civilization

Monday, March 29th


The Ironies of Normalcy:  Pop Art and Sots Art   

Wednesday, March 31st

**Sharepoint:  Pop Art and Sots Art

Discussion: Bob Marley and Question of Decolonialization

Wednesday, April 7th

**Music: Bob Marley

**Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, 1955 <Between Colonizer and Colonized>


H:      Ian Oakley

H1:    Erika Samuels

         Rich Lanahan   


Discussion: 2001

Friday, April 9th

**Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey


H:      Ashley Bacher

H1:    Dana Kavitski

         Jennie Hampton 


Discussion: 1968

Monday, April 12th

**Sharepoint: Paris 1968 (Graffiti and Posters)


H:      Tanya Cheeseman

H1:    Dave Centak

         Joe Foreman 



Wednesday, April 14th

***Rough Draft Due***


Solzhenitsyn and Harvard

Friday, April 16th

**Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Address at Harvard University, 1978 <http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/solzhenitsyn/harvard1978.html>


H:      Cathy Traino

H1:    Rachael Pompeii

         Madeline Schiminger 


1989 and 1991

Monday, April 19th   

****Pavlac, chapter XIV (301-320)

***Prospectus for Group Projects due


The “End of History” (!) (?)

Wednesday, April 21st  

**Francis Fukuyama,"The End of History?" from the National Interest, 1989 <http://www.wesjones.com/eoh.htm


H:      Ian Oakley

H1:    Joe Foreman

         Erica Pandolfo 


Discussion: Becker, Good Bye Lenin

Friday, April 23rd

Becker, Goodbye Lenin


H:      Tanya Cheeseman

H1:    Laura Panzitta

         Adam Brasky 

         Gary Stanish 


Discussion: Out of Place 

Monday, April 26th

Said, Out of Place


H:      Adam Sleboda

H1:    Gary Stanish

          Isabel Silva 

***Final Papers Due***


Group Presentation

Wednesday, April 28th

***Questions for Final Due via e-mail by 5:00***


Group Presentation

Friday, April 30th


Group Presentation

Monday, May 3rd


Group Presentation

Wednesday, May 5th