ML2STA-Society, Thought, and Art in Modern Europe

Module Provider: Modern Languages
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded: HS2STA Society, Thought and Art in Modern Europe
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Dr Veronica Heath


Summary module description:


This module aims to provide students with a systematic historical and cross-national understanding of the key ideas, institutions and symbols that have come to constitute and represent modernity in Europe and, at the same time, new conceptions of Europe. The module examines the birth of modern men and women in Europe in the late eighteenth century and the broad intellectual, cultural, economic, political and social conditions which have been shaping and re-shaping them since. The module further shows a) the contributions of different European nations to a common European reaction to and re-evaluation of tradition and modernity; and b) the diffusion of modernity (Westernisation) from Europe to Asia and Africa and its role in the creation of a global world. Finally, it shows how art has played a leading role in the transformations of modernity; not only recording it but also constituting one of its central components.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module students will be expected to: - Give an account of the European origin and dimension of modernity by showing the contributions of different European nations to the creation of modernity - Define modernity and its ‘exportability’ outside Europe. - Demonstrate an ability to compare and contrast different European experiences of and responses to modernity - Give an account of the changes and tensions involved in the passing of traditional society and the rise of modern society - Be familiar with the debates surrounding the modern and the persistence and revival of the pre-modern in contemporary Europe - Identify the key thinkers of the modern age and outline the main tenets of their thought - Identify and analyse the icons of modernity: those visual images which have captured essential features of modernity - Demonstrate an ability to use concepts from history, art history and the social sciences in analysing aspects of modernity.

Additional outcomes:

The module also aims to encourage the development of oral communication skills, team work through group projects, the critical analysis of texts, and the application of theoretical/ analytical concepts to empirical data. Students will also develop their IT skills by use of relevant web resources and databases, and their numeracy by the examination of key statistics and figures.

Outline content:

By using an inter- and multi-disciplinary perspective that combines history, art history, politics and sociology, the module examines the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century roots of some of the most central ideas, values and institutions of contemporary Europe. It explores the deep transformations in the conditions of human life which modernity has produced since the European Enlightenment through the study of: - First, the great thinkers who dared imagine new forms of human consciousness, collective identity and life in common, including Immanuel Kant, Tom Paine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Auguste Comte, Johann Gottfried Herder, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud. The module examines key themes associated with these thinkers, their impact, and their legacy in contemporary Europe and the rest of the world: the critical spirit; liberty, democracy and citizenship; the evolution of human rights; cosmopolitanism and inter-/transnationalism; ethnicity and the nation-state; public secularism, cultural pluralism and religious toleration; the scientific method; evolution and the scientific study of mankind; the application of science in technology; the free economy; the struggle principle (Darwin) and the pleasure principle of human existence (Freud). - Second, the classical criticisms and assessments of the intended and unintended consequences of modern society associated with Ferdinand Tönnies, Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Max Weber and Georg Simmel. This part of the module examines the erosion of traditional closed communities; the rise of the city; the cultural origins of industrial capitalism; the decline of a common culture; the phenomena of anomie, individualism, consumerism and alienation; and the socialist critique of modernity. - And third, the works of art which came to embody the most salient features of modernity thereby becoming the icons of the ideals and discontents of this age, such as Delacroix’s Liberty Guiding the People, Manet’s Dead Christ with Angels, Pellizza’s The Fourth Estate, Munch’s Madonna, Boccioni’s The City Rises, and Picasso’s Guernica.

Global context:

A major implication of this module is the rise of modern Europe as a global model - the desire for 'Westernisation'.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught through lectures and seminars/tutorials, depending on the number of students taking this module. Seminars/tutorials will involve individual and group presentations, again, depending on student numbers. Lecture hours shown in the table below may be reduced somewhat for very small groups.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 8 7
Seminars 7 8
Guided independent study 85 85
Total hours by term 100.00 100.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 80
Class test administered by School 20

Other information on summative assessment:

The module is assessed by coursework: 2 essays and 1 multiple choice test.

Formative assessment methods:

Seminar presentations.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at:
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:


    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August in the event of failure in this module and in Part 2 as a whole. Coursework must be resubmitted by 1.00pm on the third Friday of August or, if the University is closed, the first working day thereafter; otherwise the mark from the first attempt will be carried forward.

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    1) Required text books: 2) Specialist equipment or materials: 3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear: 4) Printing and binding: 5) Computers and devices with a particular specification: 6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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