7232.11 - European History of Culture II. Romanticism to Modernism

Course number
European History of Culture II. Romanticism to Modernism
In this course, students will gain knowledge and understanding of literature, art history and philosophy in the era from about 1790 to 1920.
Through an engagement with literature, fine art, music history and philosophy, students will gain insight into the literary and artistic trends of Romanticism, Nordic Realism (“The Breakthrough”) and Modernism. Romanticism, 1790-1870 For the Enlightenment reason was central. However, the human mind and its rationality has its limits, and in the latter part of the 18th century a movement bloomed and soon became known as romanticism. The Romantic age is usually dated from about 1790 to 1870. In Romanticism emphasis is placed on ingenuity, feeling, empathy and on being part of a greater whole, into which it is impossible to gain exhaustive insight. A person is not only an individual but also a part of a people was the main idea in Romanticism. One is always a part of a nation and of a history (romantic nationalism), and, in addition, only a small part of a greater existence, which one only gets fleeting insight into through imagination and/or empathy, for example in nature or in art, in music or literature (universalistic romanticism). As the Enlightenment of the 18th century, so also the Romanticism of the 19th century, especially romantic nationalism, had radical political implications. Nordic Realism, the ”Breakthrough” of 1870 In the latter half of the 19th century, a countermovement to Romanticism emerged. Romanticism was seen as too introspective, unrealistic and speculative. Romanticism, according to critiques, was only interested in dreams and longings, not reality. The literature of Realism was being published in England and France, and high literature was now expected to concern itself with the real lives of people, make readers aware and enlightened about society, personal rights (e.g. women’s rights), morality and so on. The Danish literary critic Georg Brandes brought this idea to Denmark after traveling throughout Europe in the 1860s. In 1871, he began a lecture series at the University of Copenhagen, and it is considered as the beginning of the so-called ”Breakthrough” in Nordic literature. Although it reflected a trend that was making itself felt throughout Europe, the ”Breakthrough” was a clearly demarcated and defined notion in the Nordic countries. High literature should consider and treat social problems. In both content and style, the new literature should make a break with tradition, with Romanticism in particular. Brandes, in fact, intentionally based his showdown with Romanticism in Enlightenment ideas. The task was to enlighten the people, get them to think and question their social circumstances and in this way open the door to the new, i.e. new ideas and new possibilities in a society, which constantly was undergoing dramatic changes. The “Breakthrough” was also the gateway to the plethora of literary and artistic trends, which have characterised the 20th century in the Nordic countries. Modernism Modernism questions the notion of one great, unifying and integral reality, which lies beyond what can be sensed. In modernity one notices a sense of alienation and discord, because, among other things, the close relationship between people begins to unravel. This does give the individual the opportunity to define him- or herself, but it often also entails loneliness and rootlessness. The individual becomes aware that it is not sufficient to use one’s language to describe reality and tell of one’s own experiences; individuals also need the ability to tell of the emptiness and alienation in their own world, which no longer provides defined boundaries for proper behaviour. Art also doubts the ability of rationality and science to guide societal progress and welfare. Modernism’s sense of crisis emerges in the content, form and style of its art, and as such, modern art is a conduit of a paradigm shift in metaphysics, in the understanding of the subject, in language and in society, both in Europe and the USA. Innovative and unique art will tell of a new reality within the conditions set by modernity. Modernism is a movement that has great influence on both people and art in the 20th and 21st century, in which the world constantly changes and in which tradition and values constantly erode.
Assessment method
Students will write one paper for the course. In addition, students will sit a major exam that covers this course and 7231.11 European History of Culture I. Internal examiners will be used. In order to pass the course, students need to pass both the paper and the exam. Grades will be based on the exam and will be awarded according to the current grading scale.