All students at CCA are required to complete Cultural History as a part of their Humanities & Sciences requirement. A menu of courses will be offered each year and students may choose from these courses to fulfill the Cultural History requirement. The courses offered to complete the requirement will be historical in nature, will have a substantial non-Western component, and will introduce students to an historical awareness of cultural diversity. Objectives include an introduction to historical and critical thinking, to research methods and uses of evidence and primary sources, and to provide historical context for contemporary citizenship.
This course examines the early-twentieth century's "great wars" as a watershed moments in European cultural history. The modern period, and especially the nineteenth century, had been marked by almost unbounded optimism for the possibilities of reason and progress that drove European expansionism and culminated in the British Empire and later the American Century. Europeans genuinely believed they had achieved the highest form of civilization the world had ever seen, as evidenced by their high standard of living, scientific progress, artistic achievements, and finely attuned morality (so fundamental to the colonial project). The Great Wars led to profound disillusionment with the moral underpinnings of this self-confidence. In particular, the brutality of the first great industrialized war that began in 1914 seemed to echo the misgivings of earlier thinkers such as Dostoyevsky, Freud, and Marx. We will listen to the voices of optimism together with those darker voices, while examining personal accounts of disillusionment by the great war poets such as Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke alongside the letters of soldiers from the trenches. Two compelling anti-war films, Abel Gance's I Accuse and Eric Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front will supplement these personal accounts. Finally, we will turn to the subsequent rise of a consumerist society and the loss of a moral compass documented by a film about the Enron debacle, one of the greatest corporate disasters in history, as it prefigures the current global financial crisis and illustrates the moral bankruptcy of current political and economic practices.