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European Thought and Culture in the 20th Century

Illuminate your understanding of prominent twentieth-century thinker's works.
European Thought and Culture in the 20th Century is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 37.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from Poor delivery This company sells a non-functioning product! The lesson crashes repeatedly and apparently this bug is something they know about but dpnt bother to mention to customers
Date published: 2022-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Followup to Kramer's 19th-C Course This is a wonderfully interdisciplinary course that ties together art, science and social thought in consistently interesting and illuminating ways. Even though about 80% of the figures discussed in the course were already at least somewhat familiar to me, I learned a lot and appreciated the professor's approach to tying together so many different intellectual trends. Some of the highlights I especially enjoyed: * Insights into modern academic and cultural institutions, dividing important figures into insiders and outsiders * Explanation of the intellectual impact of World War I on Europe * Three divergent responses to the Nazis, as illustrated by Heidegger (collaboration), Arendt (exile) and Bonhoeffer (principled sacrifice) * Clear summaries of Foucault and Derrida, two notoriously slippery thinkers Thank you, Professor Kramer. Highly recommended for the insatiably curious.
Date published: 2021-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thinking About the Thinkers As Professor Kramer explains, the twentieth century was a very different beast than the nineteenth. Even before World War I European thinkers and culture-makers were losing their predecessors’ easy confidence in progress, order and reason, and the war itself finished the job. Nationalism, which seemed so liberating in the nineteenth century, devoured tens of millions of European lives in both world wars. Optimism turned to pessimism, as many intellectuals increasingly saw people and institutions as irrational or even absurd. By the end of the twentieth century, the postmodernists were attacking the assumption that it is possible to discover and organize empirical knowledge of reality. Others, especially in the wake of Hitler and Stalin, reasserted the value of reason, liberty and equality. This course is a worthy sequel to Kramer’s European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century, which is also available only as an audio download. Like its predecessor it is heavy on the humanities and light on natural science. In literature there are the Symbolist poets Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud and Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, British poets Wilifred Owen and T.S. Eliot, novelists Émile Zola, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, George Orwell, Albert Camus, and Günther Grass, memoirists Robert Graves and Primo Levi, dramatists Henrik Ibsen and Václav Havel, and surrealist André Breton. This course is certainly a good way to build up your summer reading list! History has Oswald Spengler, the French Annales school (Lucien Lefebvre, Marc Bloch--executed by the Germans in World War II—and Fernand Braudel), and the postmodernist Michel Foucault. Philosophers include Henri Bergson, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Edmund Husserl, the Nazi Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre and his lifetime companion Simone de Beauvoir, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard, Jacques Lacan, and Julia Kristeva. There are just three modern artists: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Wassily Kandinsky; we wouldn’t want more, anyways, in a course that’s now only on audio. There are only two psychologists, but they are Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, still household names. Social science also has a significant footprint. There are the famous sociologists Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and economist John Maynard Keynes. Political theorists include Theodor Adorno, Antonio Gramsci, Hannah Arendt and Jürgen Habermas. There is just one scientist, and you’ve already heard of him: Albert Einstein. The course has an obvious bias toward the French. Out of about fifty featured persons, twenty-one are French, compared to fourteen Germans and Austrians, seven British, four Slavs, and four from Italy, Spain and Scandinavia. It would seem the French were smarter than I have ever given them credit for. Kramer’s selections are also overwhelmingly men; only four of are women. Although he doesn’t remark on the fact, a relatively high number of persons had Jewish heritage, ten or eleven (depending on whether you count Marcel Proust, who had a Jewish mother) out of the fifty. Of course, the period’s two most famous men, Freud and Einstein, were among them. I’m somewhat disgruntled that the course leans far too heavily toward the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (before 1950). Kramer doesn’t reach World War II until Lecture 17, more than 2/3 of the way through. Yet there may be two good reasons for this. First, the relative importance of Europe in Western intellectual life declined as the USA—by comparison a cultural pipsqueak in the nineteenth century—came to the fore after World War I and certainly after World War II. Second, in 2002 it would still have been difficult to pick out Europeans of the 1980s and 1990s likely to have a great influence during the coming century. I therefore recommend this course highly. As with all the audio downloads, it is an excellent bargain.
Date published: 2019-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from On the Road to Post Modernism (and Beyond) I really could not wait any longer to follow up on Professor Kramer’s excellent 2001 TC course on nineteenth century thought and culture. As with that course, this 2002 companion course is brimming with fascinating details, excellent biographical sketches, thought-provoking comments, and illuminating comparisons and contrasts. Professor Kramer’s delivery is excellent and the lectures easy to follow. Though some familiarity with the period is useful, it is not required. Much more so than the nineteenth century intellectual landscape, twentieth century thought and culture presents considerable challenges in navigating myriad developments. As Professor Kramer notes, the main intellectual efforts for much of the twentieth century challenged traditional arrangements and understandings, a prime example being modern novelists, who “…sought to challenge realistic modes of representation and to defamiliarize the familiar external world” to get at a deeper truth (Course Guidebook, Page 88). I especially appreciated Professor Kramer providing a wider historical context, including identifying two critical “traditions” in Western thought claiming truth that played out over the centuries: Greek reason and Hebrew divine revelation. They were combined in Medieval Christianity, but broke apart with the Protestant Reformation, Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment. The two traditions “took new forms as society, science, and culture evolved in the late nineteenth century” (Page 6). By the end of the century, science (i.e. reason) had a clear ascendency, most notably in Positivism. But just as the Enlightenment (Greek) prompted the early nineteenth century Romantic (Hebrew) reaction, late nineteenth century Europe exhibited a similar reaction. First limited to an avant-garde both within and outside the universities, those ideas became mainstream intellectual fare following on the horrors of both world wars, challenging unquestioning allegiance to science and progress. They also opened up the twentieth century’s Pandora’s Box of such intellectual bogies as relativism, subconscious motivations, and fragmented social and political life. It is this story of the twentieth century that is truly fascinating. But it would not be nearly so without Professor Kramer’s historical context. Having lived through more than half of that century, I came away from this course with a much better appreciation of the time and ideas than I had back then! After this course, I still do not think approvingly of late twentieth century post-modernism and post structuralism, but I have a better sense of why and how they developed. Despite their undermining of our traditional understanding of the world and people/society around us, Professor Kramer ends the course in describing yet another revolt, this time against these prevailing orthodoxies expressed in “…a renewed interest in Enlightenment conceptions of reason and the critically engaged intellectual, and [that] elements of classical liberalism reappeared in new intellectual support for ‘neo-liberal’ ideas” (Page 164). The struggle continues! Professor Kramer covers a great number of scientists, philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, poets, playwrights, novelists and artists in this course: from the more well-known, such as Baudelaire, Manet, Ibsen, Durkheim, Proust, Einstein, Conrad, Wolff, Freud, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Sartre, Beauvoir, Foucault, and Habermas, to a great number of lesser-known but still significant individuals associated with the wealth of twentieth century intellectual developments. They are all placed in their historical/social contexts, which further humanizes them for us in way not done often enough in courses such as this. (It should be noted here, however, that Professor Kramer does not treat such twentieth century works as movies and television programming.) I am sure to return to this course as I study more on the period. This course comes with an excellent 206-page course guidebook that includes fine lecture summaries, timeline, glossary, and an extensive well-annotated bibliography. All of these should make following the twists and turns in twentieth century thought much easier. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2019-03-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good information Silly clapping before and after each lecture. Somewhat dull presentation but lots of good information and ideas.
Date published: 2018-04-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Dreadful: Dull and uninspired Do you remember those boring high school and introductory lecture courses for college freshman that killed your interest in what you thought was a rich subject that you wanted to explore? You can repeat that experience if you buy this course. It is a view from not 20,000 feet but from 100,000 feet. If you are older than 40 and are reasonably well-educated and well-read, this professor's string of cliches about great writers, poets, philosophers, sociologists, and the like as well as his highly disputable views on cultural causality will surely annoy you. Easily the worst of the Great Courses I have purchased.
Date published: 2018-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course. Mastery of the subject matter. One of the better series that I have purchased since the loss of my favorite lecturer, Rufus Fears. I'm impressed with the depth of knowledge and delivery of the message. fun to listen.
Date published: 2017-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from May be the most influential lectures I really appreciated this study of history correlated with intellectual history. The professor did an excellent job of organizing the lectures and presenting the history of the individual philosophers. I hung on every word like he was creating the back drop of a great story. Which, I guess in reality, history is. I loved learning how history has effected thought through the century leading to our current lives. I look forward to a deeper study into the individuals who shaped these ideas and who were covered in these lectures. As always, after listening to the great course, I am left with an appetite for learning more!
Date published: 2016-11-22
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Overview

Professor Lloyd Kramer offers you a superbly focused introduction to the major intellectual themes and debates that have decisively shaped European culture. Their influence on modern disciplines including philosophy, psychology, economics, sociology, poetry, prose fiction, and painting has been incalculable.

About

Lloyd Kramer

Intellectual history fascinates me because it explores how people understand themselves, other persons, and human actions. A journey through European thought and culture thus leads us back to ourselves and our own life experiences.

INSTITUTION

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Dr. Lloyd Kramer is the Dean E. Smith Distinguished Term Professor of History at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 1986. He earned his B.A. from Maryville College and his M.A. in History from Boston College. He earned his Ph.D. in European Intellectual History from Cornell University. Prior to taking his position at UNC, Professor Kramer held teaching positions at Northwestern University, Stanford University, and Cornell University. At UNC, Dr. Kramer is the recipient of the Johnston Teaching Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching (1997) and the 1993 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. He teaches courses on European intellectual history, the history of Western civilization, and modern global history. He has published numerous articles and is the author of Nationalism: Political Cultures in Europe and America, 1775-1865 and Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions (1996), which received the Gilbert Chinard Prize from the American Society for French Historical Studies and the Annibel Jenkins Biography Prize from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

The Origins of 20th-Century European Thought

01: The Origins of 20th-Century European Thought

As radically new as much of 20th-century culture seems, it may also be seen as part of a long-running dialogue between the themes of ancient Greek and Hebrew thought a debate about the true foundations for human understanding that goes to the very heart of European civilization, and that reappears in modern views of science.

32 min
Universities, Cities, and the Modern “Culture Industry”

02: Universities, Cities, and the Modern “Culture Industry”

More than ever before, universities emerged as the dominant intellectual and cultural institutions of Europe. Why then did so many (though not all) of the creative minds discussed in this course do their work outside the university setting?

31 min
Naturalism in

03: Naturalism in "Fin-de-Siècle" Literature

Émile Zola, Henrik Ibsen, and Joseph Conrad were unsentimental writers whose naturalistic fiction probed the dilemmas of modern life and rejected any easy confidence in the inevitability of progress.

31 min
The New Avant-Garde Literary Culture

04: The New Avant-Garde Literary Culture

At the other pole from the naturalists were litterateurs who preferred inner visions and symbolic meanings to the realistic depiction of gritty modern urbanity. The French symbolists Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, and Villiers de L'Isle-Adam were creative figures in this new literary movement.

31 min
Rethinking the Scientific Tradition

05: Rethinking the Scientific Tradition

Working not in literature but in philosophy and theoretical physics, respectively, Henri Bergson and Albert Einstein questioned Newtonian descriptions of universal laws and stressed the observer's role in the construction of all knowledge about the world.

31 min
The Emergence of Modern Art

06: The Emergence of Modern Art

The rise of modern art overlapped with anti-realist, anti-positivist trends in other spheres. Artists such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Wassily Kandinsky favored personal vision over the depiction of concrete realities.

30 min
Émile Durkheim and French Social Thought

07: Émile Durkheim and French Social Thought

Sociology and cultural anthropology both arose out of doubts that positivism could explain human affairs. They were the most dynamic of the early 20th-century human sciences, as can be seen in the careers of Émile Durkheim and his nephew, Marcel Mauss.

31 min
Max Weber and the New German Sociology

08: Max Weber and the New German Sociology

Weber and other pioneering German scholars such as Georg Simmel focused on the problems of human history and consciousness that emerged in highly rationalized, impersonal, and "disenchanted" modern mass societies.

30 min
The Great War and Cultural Pessimism

09: The Great War and Cultural Pessimism

Already on the defensive in 1914, the belief in Progress suffered a body blow in the trenches. The First World War produced a pervasive sense of crisis and disorientation that would persist long after the Armistice of 1918.

31 min
Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalytic Theory

10: Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalytic Theory

Accounts of human thought and action that probe below the surface of conscious mental life may be the 20th century's most influential contribution to modern culture. Understanding this psychology of the unconscious mind means coming to grips with Freud.

31 min
Freud, Jung, and the Constraints of Civilized   Life

11: Freud, Jung, and the Constraints of Civilized Life

Freud was not only a clinician treating patients but a social theorist and leader of a psychoanalytic organization. His controversial ideas eventually led to a split with his own leading disciple, the Swiss therapist and author Carl Gustav Jung.

31 min
Poetry and Surrealism After the Great War

12: Poetry and Surrealism After the Great War

British poets such as Wilfred Owen, W. B. Yeats, and T. S. Eliot wrote movingly of sadness, loss, and confusion during and after the war. On the Continent, movements such as Dada and André Breton's surrealism radicalized the literary critique of reason.

31 min
The Modern Novel: Joyce and Woolf

13: The Modern Novel: Joyce and Woolf

How do modernist works of fiction differ from naturalistic narratives? Are the former closer to our lived experience of time and to the way our consciousness "streams" through the routine moments and thoughts of our daily lives?

31 min
The Continental Novel: Proust, Kafka, Mann

14: The Continental Novel: Proust, Kafka, Mann

Writing in French (Proust) and German (Kafka and Mann), these modernist masters told stories that portrayed the emotions and memories of isolated individuals, and yet in doing so commented on the problems and anxieties of modern European civilization.

31 min
Language and Reality in Modern Philosophy

15: Language and Reality in Modern Philosophy

This talk compares and contrasts two of the most influential movements in modern philosophy - phenomenology and logical positivism. The former was associated with Edmund Husserl, while the latter grew out of the early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

30 min
Revisiting Marxism and Liberalism

16: Revisiting Marxism and Liberalism

Spurred by the crises of the 1930s, Marxian revisionists such as Theodor Adorno and Antonio Gramsci no less than revisionist liberals such as J. M. Keynes and Friedrich Hayek critically marshaled the resources of their respective traditions to seek solutions for Europe's problems.

31 min
Responses to Nazism and the Holocaust

17: Responses to Nazism and the Holocaust

The intellectual and life journeys of the philosopher Martin Heidegger, his student Hannah Arendt, and the Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer provide dramatically different examples of how thinkers responded to the challenges of Nazism.

30 min
Existential Philosophy

18: Existential Philosophy

Writing novels and plays as well as philosophical works, and taking stands on current issues, existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus stressed the need for personal decision and commitment in a world torn by strife and haunted by absurdity.

30 min
Literature and Memory in Postwar Culture

19: Literature and Memory in Postwar Culture

The Italian Primo Levi, the Englishman George Orwell, and the German Günther Grass each struggled to honor the dead and help posterity understand modern human brutality by writing of his own and his culture's experiences of war, dictatorship, and genocide.

31 min
Redefining Modern Feminism

20: Redefining Modern Feminism

What are the "three waves" of 20th-century feminist thought? Why do Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" and Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" mean so much to the second wave? How has de Beauvoir in particular drawn criticism from the third wave of feminists?

31 min
History, Anthropology, and Structuralism

21: History, Anthropology, and Structuralism

Are the grand events that fill the pages of most history books just trivial surface ripples on a much deeper and more powerful stream? What made the pathbreaking researchers of the French "Annales school" of social history and the structural anthropologists think that this might be the case?

30 min
Poststructuralist Thought: Foucault and Derrida

22: Poststructuralist Thought: Foucault and Derrida

Reacting to both existentialism and structuralism, French thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida began in the 1960s to lay out new critical ideas about knowledge and power, language and truth.

31 min
European Postmodernism

23: European Postmodernism

What exactly is "postmodernism?" To answer this question and to gain a sense of how this influential but often puzzling "ism" fits into the larger themes of European thought, you turn to the ideas of the French theorists Jacques Lacan, Jean Baudrillard, and Julia Kristeva.

30 min
Changes and Traditions at Century’s End

24: Changes and Traditions at Century’s End

Chastened by a century of wars hot and cold, intellectuals such as the German Jürgen Habermas and the Czech Václav Havel offered thoughtful defenses of the role of reason in public life and the Enlightenment heritage of tolerance, human rights, and democratic deliberation.

31 min