Religion and Culture in Modern Europe

Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 04:53:16 -0500
From: Thomas A. Howard <>

I shall shortly be developing a course on religion and culture in Europe from the Enlightenment to, say, 1945 or so. The course will approximate a traditional intellectual history of modern Europe, but a strong emphasis will be placed on the categories religion and culture (and the relationship between the two). How have Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish communities and intellectuals reacted to modernity? How did the forces of (religious) tradition and modernity interact during the long nineteenth century? What is liberal Protestantism, neoorthodoxy, Vatican I, etc? What is the nature of secularization at an elite and non-elite level? What are the "uses of faith" (Rieff) after Freud? Such questions will be pursued in this course. My goal is to show that modern intellectual history is not simply the "outworking" of the secular logic of the Enlightenment, but rather a complex tension/conversation between orthodox religious communities and ways of thinking and secular, humanistic ones.

I would greatly appreciate any tips that H-Ideas participants would care to offer: book suggestions, textbook suggestions, syllabi, films, topics to cover, categories, useful criticism, etc. In short, what should this course look like and what should it accomplish pedagogically in the student? The course will be designed for 3rd and 4th year students, so the material should be relatively assessable.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Thomas A. Howard (Tal)
University of Virginia

Date: Thu, 21 Mar 1996 21:08:36 -0500 (EST) From: David M Levy <dlevy@VMS1.GMU.EDU>

In my history of economics course, the hardest problem I have is to convince young American students that once upon a time birth control was a topic simply beyond the pale. This comes up when we do Malthus's *Population* and students wonder why birth control doesn't solve the problem for Malthus.

I feel myself qualified to teach history of economics but it is awkward to teach Protestant Christians what all Christians used to believe in. Francis Place and associates have won so deeply within a Protestant community that the old battlefields aren't visible to modern believers.

David Levy

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 96 08:52:14 EST
From: mike monaco <MMONACO@KENTVM.KENT.EDU>

Sounds like an interesting course. Do you plan to keep the discussion internal to religious traditions or will there be outside criticisms too? I think it would be hard to avoid some discussion of Marx and Nietzsche. Marx's "On the Jewish Question" is a brilliant and lucid exposition of _his_ conception of "civil society"--the dog-eat-dog world--as vs. the political state, which is characterized by the ideal of equality. (this tension producing "alienation") As you can probably gather from this, "OTJQ" offers an important complement to _Comm. Manifesto_ for understanding Marx, and it has the advantage of being shorter. Nietzsche can be tough for undergrads but 3rd & 4th yr students should be able to get a good grip on _Twilight of the Idols_. This is sort of an overview of N's thought. _The Anti-Christ_ is of course sadly neglected as well. Those two are often published together in one book since they are each less than a hundred pages. Well, good luck. let us know what you decide to use in the class. I for find the whole idea exciting.

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 08:15:57 -0600 (CST) From: GILDRIER@LYNX.APSU.EDU

Prof. Howard is embarked on a fine enterprise. I would suggest Peter Berger's Heretical Imperative and Charles Davis, Religion and the Making of Society.

He is certainly correct to see modern intellectual history as more than a "natural" unfolding of secularization. There are few concepts more simplistic than "post-Christian" culture. For America, another good example is Robert Bellah et al., The Good Society.

I wish Prof. Howard good fortune on this effort and hope he will keep us informed on how the course is going. R.P. Gildrie

                                          Austin Peay State University

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 1996 11:02:00 -500
From: Richard Swerdlin <>

David Levy:

A fifth grader of mine defined "non-Christians" as "they who are sinners". This was in the context of a social studies class. Naturally it also involved language comprehension. I was curious about the comprehension of the students. My skepticism was well satisfied (unfortunately) with the above response.

Overall, it can be sticky trying to explain "other" or "older" perspectives in various aspects of the human condition. A "sense of history" or "heritage" is not too much in evidence.

Richard Swerdlin

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 96 10:52:02 EST

You might want to look into some of the Frankfurt School's work. Particularly Horkheimer and Adorno's _Dialectic of Enlightenment_. Although _DoE_ is hard to read, I don't think it's beyond the efforts of a junior or senior level student. Also, on a more contemporary level, Mark C. Taylor's _Erring: A Postmodern A/Theology_ might be of some interest. Also, there is Max Nordau's _Degeneration_, a section of which deals with mysticism. IF anything else comes to mind, I'll post it.

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