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European Thought and Culture in the 20th Century


Professor Kramer's gift for exposition is used to maximum effect as he guides you through a clear and comprehensive series of lectures discussing dozens of influential figures in European thought and letters. These include:
Poets, playwrights, novelists, and memoirists , including Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Émile Zola, Joseph Conrad, Henrik Ibsen, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, W. B. Yeats, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, T. S. Eliot, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell, Günther Grass, Primo Levi, and Václav Havel.
Painters, including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Wassily Kandinsky.
Philosophers and theorists, including Henri Bergson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Albert Einstein, Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Karl Jaspers, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Jürgen Habermas.
Key figures in the human and social sciences, including Émile Durkheim, Max Weber, Marcel Mauss, John Maynard Keynes, Hannah Arendt, Jacques Lacan, Marc Bloch, Fernand Braudel, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud.
Which Intellectual Movements Are Discussed?
By learning about their lives, their works, and the connections among their ideas, you'll gain a keener insight into a host of movements and trends in modern intellectual life:
literary realism and naturalism
literary symbolism
literary modernism
Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism in painting
analytic philosophy
depth psychology, including Freudian psychoanalysis and Jungian psychology
revisionist (Frankfurt School and Gramscian) Marxism
Keynesian and Hayekian neoliberalism
Mp3 + 2 guidebooks
Ideas in Context
Professor Kramer constantly casts an inquiring eye on the evolving contexts in which leading writers and theorists developed their ideas.
He takes ideas seriously on their own terms. Important texts or artistic creations do not simply reflect the contexts in which they appear; creative thinkers are always interpreting, redefining, criticizing, and influencing the historical world in which they live.
But Professor Kramer believes that your efforts to achieve historical understanding require knowledge of more than what these thinkers said.
You learn who they were, how they saw the problems of their age, and which historical realities affected the birth and spread of their thoughts.
The many intellectual achievements discussed in this course took place, after all, against a background of tumultuous, intensely challenging events and trends, including:
global war
economic depression
the rise and fall of empires
massive social and technological change.
You find that Professor Kramer fits this essential context in gracefully in ways that illuminate your understanding of each thinker's works.
The Ongoing Dialogue
You might think of this course as a chapter from a larger story.
That larger story is the old-but-always-renewed debate at the heart of Western civilization between Athens (standing in for "reason" or "science," broadly construed) and Jerusalem (standing in for "revelation" or "the numinous," equally broadly construed).
Twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history, Professor Kramer suggests, is an installment in this ancient and creative process of give-and-take between the dynamic poles of European civilization.
The century began with scientific positivism riding high and casting a long shadow.
But just as the 18th-century Enlightenment had aroused a response in the form of Romanticism and the historical school, so too did fin-de-siècle positivism draw its share of critics.
Writers dissatisfied with the depictions of life they found in the realistic novels of, say, Zola, turned to symbolism and the world of inner visions and hidden meanings.
And philosophers and scientists like Bergson and Einstein pointed to the limits of the Newtonian model of science.
Likewise, critical intellectuals like Nietzsche, Weber, and Conrad had raised sharp questions about the confident popular belief in almost-automatic progress even before the cataclysmic horrors of the First World War.
In the wake of the Second World War, existentialist writers such as Sartre and Albert Camus affirmed human freedom.
A New Generation of Scholars and Their Questions
But it was not long before a new generation of scholars such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and the Annales historians began to ask questions.
They wondered whether profound "structures"—of language, society, history, and consciousness itself—may constrain liberty in ways far deeper than were dreamt of in existentialist essays on the need for commitment.
In lecture after lecture, you find that Professor Kramer is superb at explaining the debates and thematic disagreements, implicit and explicit, that have arisen again and again in European intellectual life.
Whether discussing the dispute between Jung and Freud, the reasons why Matisse rejected representational painting, or Michel Foucault's critique of the Enlightenment, Professor Kramer's eye for patterns and lines of conflict or influence are razor sharp.
He lends coherence and liveliness to what might otherwise seem a bewildering gathering of intellectuals.
A Century's Three Eras
Chronologically, the lectures fall into three parts of eight lectures each:  the cultural innovations during the three decades before 1914  the responses to World War I and the new cultural themes of what historians call the "interwar" era  the responses to World War II and the new forms of thought that emerged in the decades after 1945.
Professor Kramer is very clear about what he believes you can get out of these lectures.
"Our objective throughout this course is to understand the ideas of influential 20th-century European thinkers, to reflect on the interactions between ideas and historical contexts, and to think critically about how the ideas of creative 20th-century writers continue to raise questions for our own time."  "Intellectual history analyzes the evolving dialogues among the people of other places and times, but it also emphasizes the importance of sustaining a critical dialogue between the present and the past.
"This course seeks to expand our dialogue with the intellectual world of 20th-century Europe and to show how the challenging ideas of that historical era are still vital components of the world's contemporary cultural life."

01 - The Origins of 20th Century European Thought
02 - Universities, Cities, and the Modern 'Culture Industry
03 - Naturalism in Fin-de-Siecle Literature
04 - The New Avant-Garde Literary Culture
05 - Rethinking the Scientific Tradition
06 - The Emergence of Modern Art
07 - Emile Durkheim and French Social Thought
08 - Max Weber and the New German Sociology
09 - The Great War and Cultural Pessimism
10 - Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalytic Theory
11 - Freud, Jung, and the Constraints of Civilized Life
12 - Poetry and Surrealism After the Great War
13 - The Modern Novel -- Joyce and Woolf
14 - The Continental Novel -- Proust, Kafka, Mann
15 - Language and Reality in Modern Philosophy
16 - Revisiting Marxism and Liberalism
17 - Responses to Nazism and the Holocaust
18 - Existential Philosophy
19 - Literature and Memory in Postwar Culture
20 - Redefining Modern Feminism
21 - History, Anthropology, and Structuralism
22 - Poststructuralist Thought -- Foucault and Derrida
23 - European Postmodernism
24 - Changes and Traditions at Century's End


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