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The Modern and Postmodern Era

This course explores the development of the modern era in European philosophy and literature, and the shift to postmodernism. It covers thinkers from Kant to Nietzsche and examines the relevance of philosophy to modernity, including politics, art, and aesthetics.

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Are you interested in understanding the evolution of the concept of “the modern” in European philosophy and literature? Do you want to explore how being modern has become a crucial criterion for evaluating cultural change? If so, this course is the perfect fit for you!

We will start by examining the development of the idea of modernity at the end of the 18th century with philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Jean Jacques Rousseau, and conclude with Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Baudelaire, including a quick survey of painting at the time. Throughout the course, we will examine the relevance of philosophy to modernity by studying the reflections of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. We will delve into the politics of inequality by exploring Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origins of Inequality. Karl Marx will be our focus as we examine the issues of alienation, class struggle, and revolution. We will also read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as a reflection on convention, stupidity, and art in the aftermath of the mid-19th century revolution. In addition, we will situate Charles Darwin’s achievement in the context of English Enlightenment traditions, reimagining the world without a goal for change.

Through an examination of Charles Baudelaire and Friedrich Nietzsche, we will focus on the aesthetic embrace of intensity instead of the search for the “really real.” Lastly, we will conclude with a quick survey of how advanced painting moved toward a consideration of the surface of the canvas, moving away from the quest for the most realistic representation of the world.

By the end of this course, you will gain an understanding of the evolution of modernity, its significance, and its relationship with the cultural changes of the past few centuries. This course is ideal for those who are interested in philosophy, literature, and history, and want to expand their understanding of the world’s ideas and cultures.

What you’ll discover:

  • The development of the idea of “the modern” in European philosophy and literature at the end of the 18th century;
  • How philosophy reflects on modernity and progress, with a focus on the works of Rousseau, Kant, Marx, Darwin;
  • The relationship between the pursuit of knowledge and politics of inequality;
  • The themes of alienation, class struggle, and revolution;
  • The reflections on convention, stupidity, and art in the wake of the failures of mid-19th century revolution.

Who should take this course:

  • Students of history, philosophy, and literature;
  • Individuals interested in cultural change and its evaluation;
  • Those looking to gain insight into the development of modernity and postmodernity;
  • Anyone interested in the works of Immanuel Kant, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Charles Baudelaire.