Reading the Twentieth Century: An introduction to intellectual and cultural history
Hegel: the truth is the whole (The Phenomenology of Mind, 1807)
Adorno: the whole is untrue (Minima Moralia, 1951)
Ezra Pound: I cannot make it cohere (Cantos, 1959)
‘Reading the Twentieth Century’ is devoted to studying core twentieth century texts, chosen from across genres and disciplines, and including works by Sigmund Freud, M.K. Gandhi, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Simone de Beauvoir, and Rachel Carson. Students who take the course will, through close analysis of primary texts and contextual and historical study, gain an understanding and appreciation of some of that century’s most influential ideas and theories, considered through a variety of interpretative frameworks.
Themes and tensions that will be explored include: the relationship between the pursuit of totalizing theories of mind, society, evolution, and recognition of the fragmented character of modern experience; the effects of encounters between western power and non-western cultures; the relationship between humans and nature; the politics of gender; and arguments for rationality and its limits.
Throughout, we will take seriously reading in both its senses: reading as interpretation as well as, literally, the activity of reading itself - students taking the course can expect to do a fair amount of reading, mainly of primary texts. Supplemental material in the form of video and audio recordings (to be posted on the classroom webpage), will be also be used.
Course assessment will be on the basis of five ‘Reading notes’ (@400 words each) on the set texts (50% of course assessment), and one long essay (2000 words).
Summary of Sessions
Week 1. Introduction: How to read? R.G. Collingwood: An Autobiography (1939) Week 2. Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams (1900)
Week 3 .M.K. Gandhi: Hind Swaraj (1909)
Week 4. James Joyce: Ulysses (1922)
Week 5. Muhammad Iqbal: The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam (1934) Week 6. Walter Benjamin: ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1935) Week 7. Hannah Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951)
Week 8. Karl Popper: The Open Society & its Enemies (1945)
Week 9. Claude Levi-Strauss: Tristes Tropiques (1955)
Week 10. Mao Tse-Tung: On War (1938), and Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (1963) Week 11. Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex (1949)
Week 12. Rachel Carson: Silent Spring (1962)
Week 13.Richard Dawkins: The Selfish Gene (1989)
WEEK 1: Introduction: How to read? Some approaches in intellectual and cultural history
- R.G. Collingwood: An Autobiography, (1939), new edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
WEEK 2: Sigmund Freud
- Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams, (1900), trans. By James Strachey (Basic Books, 2010) [selections]: Preface to First edition; Ch. 1-2; 4, 5, 6 [excerpts]
-Paul Ricoeur: Freud and Philosophy
WEEK 3: M.K. Gandhi:
- M.K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, Critical Edition by Suresh Sharma & Tridip Suhrud (Orient Blackswan, 2010)
WEEK 4: James Joyce
- James Joyce, Ulysses
-Terence Killeen, Ulysses Unbound: A Reader’s Companion to James Joyce’s Ulysses (University of Florida Press, 2018)
WEEK 5: Muhammad Iqbal:
- Muhammad Iqbal, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, (1934), (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2013)