University of Notre Dame

The Triumph of Technique

Course Number: HIST 13184-4
Instructor: Robert E. Sullivan

This course, which presumes no prior knowledge, explores how and why people today perceive, feel, and think as we do. Particularly, it explores the increasing emphasis on techniques and effects and corresponding neglect of questions of value and meaning in in the United States and Europe (including Britain and Ireland) in modern times. It also explores how such questions don’t go away but change just because we are human. We shall study the writings of a variety of novelists, historians, philosophers, and scientists. It has three major academic objectives: (1) to grow your capacity to think analytically and self-critically; (2) to enhance your ability and self-confidence as close readers, as well as effective speakers and writers; and (3) to introduce you to some monuments of modern American and European cultural history. Personally, the course encourages you to think about yourselves and our world historically. This means understanding that all our lives are bounded by the time and place we occupy. As much as the dead people whose works we’ll study, we are finite and trapped in time: situated in a particular moment and location, within a distinctive and impermanent culture. Our class meetings are discussion seminars. Everybody will be expected to contribute discussing and debating what you’ve read and making at least one oral presentation. In addition to your regular class participation and presentation, papers totaling about twenty-five pages, and both an oral midterm and an oral final examination will determine your final grade.

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