European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century
(24 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture) Course No. 4423
Taught by Lloyd Kramer University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill Ph.D., Cornell University
Course Lecture Titles
1. What is Intellectual History?
2. The Scientific Origins of the Enlightenment
3. The Emergence of the Modern Intellectual
4. The Cultural Meaning of the French Revolution
5. The New Conservatism in Post-Revolutionary Europe
6. The New German Philosophy
7. Hegel’s Philosophical Conception of History
8. The New Liberalism
9. The Literary Culture of Romanticism
10. The Meaning of the “Romantic Hero”
11. The Industrial Revolution and Classical Economics
12. Early Critiques of Industrial Capitalism
13. Hegelianism and the Young Marx
14. Marx’s Social Critique
15. Feminism in Nineteenth-Century Culture
16. Women’s Rights in a Man’s World
17. Tocqueville and Mill—Rethinking Liberal Theory
18. Nationalisms and National Identities
19. The Novel as Art and Social Criticism
20. Science and Its Literary Critics
21. Charles Darwin and the New Biology
22. The Controversies of Social Darwinism
23. The Heroic Critic in Mass Society
24. Nietzsche’s Critique of European Culture
This course is an opportunity to explore the major thinkers and historic challenges that shaped the mind of Europe in the 19th century. Intellectual history emphasizes the exchanges of ideas and debates that went on among people from other places and times. But it also stresses the importance of a continuing dialogue between the present and the past.
This course in intellectual history, therefore, seeks to expand our capacity for engaging in informed "dialogue" with the intellectual world of 19th-century Europe.The thoughts of that world are still with us today, powerful forces in the cultural, intellectual, and political debates of the early 21st century.In fact, 19th-century Europe was the crucible for most of the ideas, institutions, and "isms" that now shape the life of our entire planet, including:
And the list goes on.
Thought and Life from the French Revolution to the Fin de Siècle
How did these ideas begin? Who first thought of them, and why? How did the particular conditions of Europe between the French Revolution and the First World War shape these thinkers' ideas, the thoughts of their critics, the progress of the debates that went on between them, and the wider hearing that all received?
Professor Lloyd Kramer takes a judicious, dynamic approach to these questions. Through his lectures you follow the ebbs and flows of European thought during this key period.Ideas and Social Experience
Professor Kramer's goal throughout these lectures is threefold:
• to help you deepen your understanding of the ideas of influential 19th-century European intellectuals
• to reflect on the interactions between ideas and social experience
• to think critically and creatively about how the ideas of 19th-century Europe's leading thinkers and writers still raise a host of cogent questions for our own time.
To make for the most comprehensive treatment possible within a 24-lecture framework, you will examine not only famous thinkers like Marx, Darwin, and Nietzsche, but a number of important though less well remembered figures.These include the romantic author Germaine de Staël, the positivist Auguste Comte, the novelist and feminist George Sand, the political theorist Benjamin Constant, and many others.In no case does Professor Kramer treat a thinker in isolation. Instead, each is placed in a context and linked both to other creative thinkers and the major issues of the time.
Consciousness and Context
In inviting you to view intellectual history as a series of overlapping, interconnected dialogues, Professor Kramer makes two important assumptions:
1. It is ideas—like Hegel's, for example—that shape history.
2. Social, political, and economic realities—like the Industrial Revolution, for example—affect how those ideas appear, gain influence, and become, like Hegel's thoughts, historical forces in their own right.
This approach allows you to avoid the twin dangers of reductionism, which collapses consciousness into context, and abstraction, which ignores the connection between ideas and the full complexity of lived human experience.While important texts cannot be said simply to "reflect" the contexts in which they appear, it remains true that creative thinkers have always interpreted and reacted to the concrete historical world in which they live.
From this course you learn to grasp in detail precisely how that process of interpretation, redefinition, and "dialogue" with reality takes place in the still-vibrant works of many of the best minds modern European civilization has ever produced.
Three Dialogues: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the City
Your approach to the topic is organized around three key themes:
• the response by educated Europeans to the cultural legacy of the Enlightenment
• the questions raised by the massive social and political impact of the French Revolution and its aftermath
• the broad issue of the Industrial Revolution and the challenges posed on many levels by the rise of modern urban, industrial mass society.
Professor Kramer begins by laying out basic premises and explaining what makes intellectual history a distinct field of study.He then continues with three lectures exploring the 18th-century Enlightenment, its legacy, and its connection to the French Revolution.That uprising is still the "framing event" for modern political life. It is the source, in fact, of commonplace political references like "left," "right," and "ideology." Professor Kramer then devotes a set of six lectures to the political and cultural theories offered by writers such as Burke, Goethe, Bentham, Fichte, and Herder in response to the Enlightenment and the Revolution.
These ideas shaped the famous "isms"—conservatism, liberalism, nationalism, romanticism, etc.—that interpreted the new post-Revolutionary social and political world, and which remain current today as the symbols we use to organize our reality.
Industrialism, Feminism, and the Problem of Mass Culture
Beginning with Lecture 11, you turn to the cultural impact of the other great upheaval of the era, the Industrial Revolution.Interpretations of the new economy ranged from the pro-capitalist responses of classical economists to the critiques of various strains of socialism. You examine the full range from Adam Smith to Karl Marx.
This section also considers the movement for human rights in the new industrial society, including the rights of women, as championed by John Stuart Mill and George Sand.And you examine several cultural issues raised by modern, urban "mass" societies that go beyond the large institutional questions about economic and political arrangements:
• What was the individual's place in this new impersonal, rationalized world?
• Would new forms of literature come forth to describe it?
• Should positive science, or perhaps history, be the key to understanding and guiding the human situation?
• Was heroism still possible?
Closing the Circle
The European dialogue touched on all these issues and more, and Professor Kramer analyzes the contributions of figures that range from John Stuart Mill, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Matthew Arnold to Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Herbert Spencer, and Auguste Comte.The section and the course close with a lecture on Friedrich Nietzsche.Professor Kramer explains how you can use Nietzsche's thought as a vantage point, either looking forward to the 20th-century themes that already preoccupied him, or back to the dialogue with the Enlightenment he had in mind while formulating his own view of what he called "the crisis of European civilization."