Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This subject surveys main currents of European cultural and intellectual history in the modern period. Such a foundation course is central to the humanities in Europe. The curriculum introduces a set of ideas and arguments that have played a formative role in European cultural history, and acquaints them with some exemplars of critical thought. Among the topics to be considered: the critique of religion, the promise of independence, the advance of capitalism, the temptations of Marxism, the origins of totalitarianism, and the dialects of enlightenment. In addition to texts, we will also discuss pieces of art, including paintings and film.

Readings begin with the Protestant Reformation, and move through the French Revolution up to the post-WWII period. Authors to be considered include Luther, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Rousseau, Smith, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Class discussions will set these texts into the context of European culture. Taught in English.


This course serves as a foundation for those pursuing further courses in European Studies. Students will be expected to construct arguments of their own about the issues raised. The course places a premium on excellence in communication; papers, oral presentations, and active participation in class discussions account for the full final grade. Students are expected to demonstrate progress in critical analysis and expression.

Required Text

Buy at Amazon Weber, Eugen. The Western Tradition, Vol. 2: From the Renaissance to the Present. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1994. ISBN: 9780669394436.


Class Participation

It is essential to this course. In order to make a valuable contribution students have to come prepared to each class. Assigned readings must be completed before each class meeting. Courtesy toward others in discussions is expected. Students who are unable to attend a class must inform the instructor in advance by e-mail. Students with more than four absences shall be automatically dropped from the class.


One of the primary goals of this course is the development and refinement of critical analysis and argument. To this end students will write four essays. In finished essays any and all references must be cited. Essays must conform to MLA standards and should be each five pages long (that is c. 1250 words each: 1 manuscript page = 250 words). Essays are due in class in the sessions indicated. Essays submitted late without prior permission from the instructor will be penalized by one full letter grade. Essays submitted more than one week late will be penalized by two full letter grades. Always keep a printed copy of your essay. The first essay is a diagnostic exercise. Students are required to submit revised versions of this essay. For this assignment, only the revised essay will be graded.

Oral Presentation

In addition to the writing assignments, students will also be expected to deliver an oral presentation. Students shall prepare and present a one-page handout on the day's reading. In these twenty-minute presentations students should provide a summary of the author's main points, describe the historical context in which the text was produced, and open up a few questions for discussion.

Presentations will be evaluated according to the following criteria: insight, clarity, and, importantly, the degree to which presenters are able to stimulate the thoughtful participation of their classmates.


Participation in class discussion 10%
One oral presentation 20%


  • First essay and its revision (10%)
  • Second essay (15%)
  • Third essay (20%)
  • Fourth essay (25%)