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History 730: Studies in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century European Thought and Culture


Time: Tuesday, 5:30-8:00

Room: JR 295

Instructor: Stephen Kern

Office: 242 Dulles

Office Hours: MW 11-11:30 or by appointment

Office Telephone: 292-7308

email: kern.193@osu.edu



            The modernist period (roughly 1895-1935) brought about revolutionary changes in every area of culture and society: Cubism in art, relativity theory and quantum theory in physics, psychoanalysis in psychiatry, pragmatism and phenomenology in philosophy, atonality in music, structuralist linguistics, the emergence of modern sociology, and a host of new literary techniques that transformed the novel including unreliable narrators, stream of consciousness, and interior monologue as well as new substantive issues such as primitivism, artistic self-reflection, and new attitudes about sex and gender. The material foundations of experience in time and space were revolutionized by new technologies distinctive to this period, most importantly the telephone, wireless, cinema, automobile, x-ray, electricity, skyscraper, and airplane. Urbanism, feminism, and World War I transformed the substance of modernist culture and society.

            This seminar will focus on modernism and narrative. A narrative is a meaningful reconstruction of causally linked events with a beginning, middle, and end. In short, it is a story. In the modernist period the major art forms substantially altered earlier notions of narrative in their respective genres. Novelists subverted or weakened plots, artists rejected narrative art and diminished, if they did not entirely eliminate, representative objects, while scientists questioned the universal applicability of classical physics, which for two hundred years provided the logic of explanation in science generally and was the foundation for faith in the narrative of the progress of science and technology. This course will study ways in which these developments in high culture related to the subversion of a number of other grand narratives of modern history such as the enlightenment narrative of the progress of reason; the positivist narrative of the progress of knowledge from theological to metaphysical to positivistic; the liberal narrative of the progress of liberty and equality; the capitalist narrative of the triumph of monopoly capitalism; the Christian narrative of creation, incarnation, resurrection, and salvation; the national narrative of the progress of nations as it became morally compromised by entanglements with imperialism, militarism, and war in 1914.

            As various times I will give short, supplemental lectures on modernist art, philosophy, physics, and psychiatry.


ENROLLMENT REQUIREMENT: All students must be officially enrolled in the course by the end of the second full week of the quarter. No requests to add the course will be approved by the department chair after that time. Enrolling officially and on time is solely the responsibility of each student.


DISABILITY STATEMENT: Students who believe that they may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should see me after class or contact me privately to discuss their specific needs. Your disability must be documented at the Office for Disability Services (614-292-3307) in room 150 Pomerene Hall. Please be sure you have contacted them in order to receive accommodation.


REQUIRED READINGS: I give publishers and ISBN’s only for texts with more than one




Diana Hacker, A POCKET STYLE MANUAL (any edition)

Henri Barbusse, UNDER FIRE (Penguin, ISBN: 0143039040)


James Joyce, ULYSSES (Vintage: ISBN: 0394743121)


Sparknotes, ULYSSES

Virginia Woolf, MRS DALLOWAY (Harvest: ISBN 0156628708)

John Dos Passos, MANHATTAN TRANSFER (Houghton Mifflin: ISBN 0395574234)

André Gide,   THE COUNTERFEITERS (Vintage: ISBN0394718429)

Franz Kafka, THE TRIAL (Shocken: ISBN 0805209999)



Sept 26: Kern essay.

October 3: Paul Fussell, THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY Chs 1-3, 9; Jay Winter, SITES OF MEMORY, SITES OF MOURNING, Introduction, chs. 1-4, 7, and Conclusion. WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT, a 2-page compare and contrast essay on both books. Papers graded and returned to your boxes by 10/5.

October 6: WRITING WORKSHOP. This will be Friday night in my home. Read for this Diana Hacker, Chapter 1-3 (on Clarity, Grammar, Punctuation)—any edition.

October 10: Henri Barbusse, UNDER FIRE.

October 17: Jesse Matz, THE MODERN NOVEL, Chs. 1-5. WRITING ASSIGNMENT: 2 page summary. Jesse Matz (from Kenyon College) will be visiting our class that night. Email me three questions on Matz by 10/16.

October 24: Franz Kafka, THE TRIAL

October 31: Andre Gide, THE COUNTERFEITERS


November 7: James Joyce, ULYSSES. Episodes 4 (Calypso), 5 (Lotus Eaters), 6

(Hades), 7 (Aeolus), 8 (Lestrygonians), 10 (Wandering Rocks). Read Sparknotes on ULYSSES to give you a sense of the entire narrative, then concentrate on Harry Blamires THE NEW BLOOMSDAY BOOK for those episodes in ULYSSES you are assigned to read. You can get Blamires online at BOOKFINDER.COM. There is an older edition, titled THE BLOOMSDAY BOOK, which cites page numbers of the older edition of ULYSSES, which you can use for the class.


November 14: James Joyce, ULYSSES. Episodes 11 (Sirens), 12 (Cyclops), 13     

            (Nausicaa), 18 (Penelope). Also read Blamires on these episodes.

November 21: Virginia Woolf, MRS DALLOWAY. Also read an important essay

            by Woolf, “Modern Fiction” (1919). (ER)

November 28: John Dos Passos, MANHATTAN TRANSFER

December 5: To be announced.

December 14: FINAL PAPER DUE. 3000 words (10 pages) on either a modernist formal element (e.g., character, plot, space, time, ending, meaning) or a grand narrative (e.g., personal, courtship, urban, liberal, national).

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