CS: "The Trouble with Being Born": Eastern Europe in the First Half of the Twentieth Century

Timothy Olin's picture

From the title of the Romanian writer Emil Cioran's book. This course will begin around the turn of the century with the twilight of the great empires (Russian, Prussian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian), exploring the origins and "invention" of modern Eastern Europe. It will go on to examine the "rebirth" of Eastern Europe in the aftermath of World War I; the wild and experimental 1920s, including avantgardism in the cultural sphere and the collapse of democracy in the political sphere; and the polarizing ideological spectrum of the 1930s. We will explore the dynamics of communism and fascism, along with other configurations of Marxism and nationalism. Given the spectre of the Second World War, this course will pose the overarching question of whether and how we can read the interwar years in a way other than as a prelude to an inevitable catastrophe to come?