Modernity is a crucial element of the intellectual legacy to which we are heirs. A matrix of intellectual, social, and material forces that have transformed the world over the last quarter millennium, modernity has introduced new problems and possibilities into human life. Within modernity, issues of meaning, identity, and morality have been critiqued in distinctive ways. People of different social classes, racial groups, ethnic backgrounds, genders, and sexual identities have contributed to an increasingly rich public discourse. The human psyche has been problematized, and the dynamic character of the world, both natural and social, has been explored. Urbanization and technological development have transformed the patterns of everyday life. Imperialism has had a complex and lasting impact on the entire globe. The human capability to ameliorate social and physical ills has increased exponentially, and yet so has the human capacity for mass destruction and exploitation. In these seminars students explore texts from a variety of media that engage with the ideas and phenomena central to modernity. This component of the Core Curriculum encourages students to think broadly and critically about the world that they inhabit, asking them to see their contemporary concerns in the perspective of the long-standing discourses of modernity. Students who successfully complete one of these seminars will satisfy the Challenges of Modernity core requirement.
We will read and analyze a collection of core texts with special attention given to thoughtful and informed contextualization. Students with an interest in history are especially encouraged to apply.
Xan Karn is an associate professor in the history department. His Ph.D. focused on modern European intellectual and cultural history. His current work addresses questions related to historical justice and historical reconciliation.