History 350

HIST 350
Modern European Intellectual History

Catalog Entry

HIST 350
Modern European Intellectual History
Three hours lecture: (3)

Prerequisite: Three hours of History at the 100 level.

Explores the relationship between thought and its social context in Europe since 1750. The course draws on philosophical, scientific, and cultural texts, and focuses on the political implications of philosophical reflection, scientific investigation, and cultural criticism.

Detailed Description of Content of Course
The course will be roughly divided into three sections. The first section will deal with trends in European intellectual history until the late 19th century: idealism, romanticism, utilitarianism and liberalism, positivism, and the philosophies of history of Hegel and Marx. The second section of the course will deal with representative examples of the crisis in European thought which occurred around the turn of the century: Nietzsche’s cultural criticism, Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, and Weber’s sociological analysis. The third section of the course will deal with trends in 20th-century European intellectual history: existentialism, Marxism as an intellectual tradition, structuralism, and deconstruction.

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The course relies on the integration of lectures and seminar-style discussions. Lectures will focus on the historical contexts in which selected philosophical, scientific, and cultural texts appeared. Each reading will also be tackled in a seminar-style discussion, which will be led by either an individual student or small groups of students. The student(s) will have studied a commentary on the assigned reading, and will lead a discussion on the issues raised by the author. The other participants, in the seminar will be responsible for situating those issues in the historical context in which the text was written and read.

Goals and Objectives of the Course

1. Students will practice thinking critically and analytically about historical issues, acquire a broader knowledge and deeper understanding of pertinent historical events and processes, and cultivate a familiarity with the concepts of historical argument and interpretation.
2. Students will develop disciplinary research skills by designing strategies to locate and analyze primary and secondary source evidence, processing and organizing the resultant data, and composing proper citation and bibliographical entries.
3. Students will apply their critical thinking, research, and compositional skills to the creation and presentation of thesis driven essays that discuss, for example, historical social, economic, political, and/or cultural developments and that address issues such as the causes and consequences of historical change and continuity.
4. Upon completion of the course, the students will: (a) be able to recognize and identify the major figures in the European history of ideas since 1750; (b) be familiar with the major issues in the European history of ideas during this period; (c) be familiar with the social, political, and cultural impact of selected examples of philosophical reflection, scientific investigation, and cultural expression and criticism - i.e. be able to set the ideas we discuss in historical context; and (d) be able to express, in written and oral form, aspects of the information outlined above.

Assessment Measures

Knowledge and understanding of the material covered in this course will be measured using an array of assessment tools that may include, among other things, class attendance and participation, written examinations, formal writing assignments of various types, and informal writing assignments. All exercises are designed to expand the student's ability to evaluate historical events and to develop his or her ability to compose persuasive arguments.

Other Course Information


Review and Approval
Date Action Reviewed by
October 2010 Reviewed and Approved by Sharon A. Roger Hepburn, Chair