Theory and Methodology with specific Reference to the Situation of Central Europe: Classicism, Romanticism, Historism 1830-1910

Fall Term 1993
Peter Hanak
Ilona Sarmany
Department of History

Course Description

The aim of this course is to introduce students to modern cultural history, a subject that was generally neglected in the history courses of the former socialist countries. It should encourage students to look at history from a new angle and stimulate them to raise questions about their own national history and the history of Central Europe. In particular there is a need to look at national mythologies from a critical, analytical viewpoint.

The course concerns itself with two aspects of the cultural history of early modern and modern Europe: Firstly, material culture through the ages -- housing, technical modernization living conditions, cultivated living ("Wohnkultur") etc.

Secondly, high culture as represented by the fine arts and literature. The course aims also to show the continuous interaction between these two spheres in the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, for example in the context of domestic life and architecture. It also offers a detailed comparative approach to national cultures, highlighting parallel tendencies and universal trends within individual national schools of architecture, literature, painting etc. Special attention will be paid to urbanization and its impact on the life and culture of the region.

A methodological introduction to the classic works and to the most recent research in the field will familiarize students with the basic themes of cultural history and demonstrate the multiplicity of possible approaches to the interpretation of culture in any given period.

Special emphasis will be laid on differentiation between elite culture and mass culture, and on the specific role of rural or peasant culture in Central Europe.

The course will also offer an overview of artistic styles in historical context. The lectures will be complemented by two museum visits (one to the Museum of Fine Arts and one to the National Gallery).

The syllabus is not a week by week breakdown, but a division into thematic units.

Core books have to be studied throughout the course in sequence of chronologically ordered chapters. For this reason titles are not repeated under each thematic unit.

Students will get advice on what to choose and how much to read at each lecture. However the list is not intended to be exclusive and will be supplemented according to the special interest of the participants.

Thematic units of the course:

1. Introduction to cultural history. The classics: Taine, Burckhardt, Huizinga, Norbert Elias. Discussion of methodological issues.

2. Cultural perspective of early modern Europe. The world of the Baroque. Mentality and life-style. Baroque and irrationalism. The Enlightenment.

3. Introduction to the role of art history as an aspect of cultural history. Survey of the evolution of styles in Europe up to the end of the 18th century. The new social position of the arts at the threshold of the l9th century in different regions of Europe.

4. Sources of Classicism and Romanticism. The cult of the artist as genius. European Classicism. English, French and German Romanticism.

5. Technical civilization in early 19th century Europe. Housing and life-style. Functional aspects of the middle-class home (heating, lighting etc.). Furniture and civilized living in the early Victorian and Biedermeier home.

6. Tradition and the challenge of modern urban life. Realism and the arts. Positivism and the arts. The Western European scene and its impact on the cultural Europe.

7. The architectural panorama of Europe in the first part of the 19th century. Stylistic affinities between regions, differences in local traditions of housing and architectural heritage. New approaches to urban planning.

8. Establishing institutional systems for the arts. World exhibition and their role in culture. The differences between the art centers of Western Europe and those of Central Europe. Stylistic pluralism and Historicism.

9. The effect of industrialization and urbanization in Europe in the mid-19th century. Housing. New inventions and techniques. Conflicting approaches of civil engineering and traditional architecture.

10. The revolution in transport. Changes in population density. Technical problems of urbanization. The metropolis as phenomenon and its concomitant social problems.

11. Paris, the art capital of the world. Modernization and Modernism. The Impressionists in context. Urban themes in painting. Bourgeois attitudes towards the arts and the cult of Bohemia.

CRC-Curriculum Resource Center
CEU Budapest, Hungary
Modified: May, 1996


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