Andre Gide

HRS 166 -- The Modern Temper

California State University, Sacramento
Departments of History 
College of Arts and Letters

Spring 2002

Bela Bartok





George S. Craft                                                                                                    Spring 2002

Tahoe Hall 3088; 278-6400;

Office Hours: W 2:00-3:30 am; R 9:00-10:30 pm

  Catalog Description: The Modern Temper. An investigation of those crises in art and society underlying the development of anti-humanism in the 20th century.  3 units.  (Course listed in General Education Area C4)

  Course Description: This course will introduce you to the arts and humanities in Europe in roughly the first half of the 20th century.  We will concentrate primarily on imaginative literature (short novels and novellas), painting and music (opera and the orchestra); we may also look at a little poetry and architecture.  We will have a broad geographic scope: England (Woolf), France (Gide and Camus), Germany (Mann), the Austrian Empire (Kafka) and Russia (Tolstoy).  The course will begin in the pre-modernist period around 1880 and end around 1940 at the beginning of the Second World War.  The various works we study will be bound together by the main ideas and attitudes reflecting the social and political conditions of the early 20th century. 

              European history in this period is characterized by brilliant successes combined with irrationality, upheaval, inhumanity and uncertainty.  At the end of the 19th century artists and writers seemed to be disillusioned with the secular, liberal and progressive assumptions in place since 1815.  Industrialism and urbanization placed millions of people in strange cities performing mechanical routines and subjected to impersonal bosses and an ever more powerful state.  Artists and writers were often uncertain of how to make a living and were alienated from the bourgeois society and culture around them (bohemianism).  Their suspicions were confirmed by total war (World War I) and economic crisis (The Great Depression).

              “Modernist” culture reflects this alienation and uncertainty.  The term ‘modernism’ was applied first to literature where writers “gave free rein to complicated, sometimes baffling but often lyrically stunning explorations of their inner states…. [in] the labyrinthine passages of the unconscious where dream fragments, sensations, and fantasies proceed in no fixed order.” (Winders, European Culture Since 1848)  Painters abandoned the “glue” of visual reality and Renaissance naturalism and indulged in a variety of “modernist” styles that had nothing in common except for a renunciation of the visual object.  Music composers also disavowed many of their traditions including the tonal system and embarked on bold creative experiments that alienated much of the listening public.  Modernism requires that we abandon the notion that a work of art must be “beautiful.”

              This era produced brilliant and interesting works of art.  It is our undertaking to learn to appreciate them, and to make some personal sense out of 20th century culture.           

Course Objectives: HRS 166 has several objectives:

  1) Enhance your appreciation of some of the great works of western humanities (literature, art and music) in the early 20th century.

  2) Develop your insight into the human condition as experienced in the 20th century.  What does it mean to live in the ‘modern’ age?

3) Investigate the literary concept of ‘modernism’ and see if it applies to other branches of the arts and humanities.

4) Understand the interrelatedness of literature, music and the visual arts in the context of any civilization.

5) Develop your (and my) skills of analysis, critical thinking and English composition.

 Required Readings: The following required books are available in the Hornet Bookstore.  You don’t have to purchase the books in any particular edition.

            Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (1882)

            André Gide, The Immoralist (1902)

            Franz Kafka, The Transformation (1905) and In the Penal Colony (1917)

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (1911); perhaps Tristan (1902); and Mario and the Magician (1929)

Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942)

Rosemary Lambert, Cambridge Introduction to the History of Art: The Twentieth Century (1981).  This book has short discussions of 20th century art.  It would be helpful for students with little familiarity with the subject.  It is not required.

You will also receive short dittoed handouts relating to course materials.  Keep a three-ring loose-leaf binder for these handouts.  We may view some video programs in or out of class, e.g. on modern architecture.  Some internet resources are useful; I would particularly recommend, which has in-depth discussions of most of our assigned readings

Classroom Procedure

            Most of class time will be devoted to lectures and a structured discussion of the assigned texts.  I will give you precise reading assignments accompanied by study lists when possible.  I expect you to have the reading done by the day of the assignment.

              Participation in class discussions in important, especially since this is a small class.  I will divide you up into “discussion teams” of two students for the reading assignments.  Students will be expected to read the assigned material carefully and to help lead the discussion with questions, answers, and informed comments.  Student members of a team should stay in touch with one another.  Your final grade may be marginally raised or lowered by your discussion performance.

              As most of the learning in this class will probably occur in class, I expect all of you to attend class regularly – at least 85% of the time.  You may lose up to one full grade point (e.g., B to C) by poor attendance.

              I will try to put course materials on the web under HRS 166; they would be accessed from my faculty webpage and from the HRS and History Departments webpages. 

  I will be available in my office during my office hours and by appointment if you are unable to come by during office hours.  Please feel free to email me for questions/discussion; I am pretty good about answering email messages, and once you get me going, I love to talk to students about these materials.  So that you may stay in touch with one another, I will distribute a list of email addresses of students enrolled in this course.

I must emphasize: in this course attending class is very important.

Testing, Writing and Grading

              Writing is very important in this course.  You will be assigned three thought papers spaced at equal intervals, about every five weeks.  The last paper will be due the date of the final exam.  Each paper will be about five (5) standard typewritten pages or the equivalent in legible, double-spaced longhand.  Expect thus to write about 4000 words.  These essays will be critical thought papers, the topics being chosen from a list of essay questions distributed about two weeks before the due date.

              The grade I assign your paper will be affected by both content (depth, inventiveness, cohesiveness of your ideas) and writing style (correctness, clarity and elegance).  For further instructions consult the Guidelines for Writing Thought Papers that I will distribute to your shortly.

            I encourage you to consult with me ahead of time about choosing paper topics of particular interest to you.

            You will also have two identification style examinations, one in mid-semester and the other on the final exam date.  They will test basic information and insights covered in class discussions and readings.  I will give you study lists to prepare these examinations. 

            Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

              Main essays @20% each                 60%

            Two ID exams @20%                           40%


            Total                                                    100%

              Of course, your final grade may be significantly affected by your class participation and especially by your attendance.


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