Course Syllabus

Humanities 123: Modern Europe
Syllabus #1536
5 credits


Dr. W. Thomas Moore

Full Course Syllabus:  Huma 123 syl 1536.doc Please note the syllabus changes below that pertain to Social Distancing due to COVID19



Humanities 123 is the third in a sequence of Humanities courses that each provide an interdisciplinary introduction to significant cultural themes from art, music, history, philosophy, and literature in the Western tradition.  Western Washington University’s General Bulletin describes Humanities 123 as an introduction to modern Western culture from the 18th century to the present; the modern ideologies; alienation and integration of the individual in society.

The reading and viewing list for this class represents a broad spectrum of works from Europe, Great Britain, and the United States, showcasing major intellectual and social movements of the era.  The material is organized into three parts, denoting the foremost themes of the period.


Note:  I have provided introductions to each work on this reading list.  In order to perform well on the examinations, you will have to read my lectures and the texts (or view the movies).  In some cases, you might find it worthwhile to read the introductions provided in the books themselves.  This last point applies especially to Rousseau’s Social Contract (Penguin Edition), which is a complex and at times confusing piece of political philosophy.   But this I leave up to your own judgment.  

Part I:  Romance and Revolution

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice (all)
Jean Jacques Rousseau: The Social Contract, Penguin edition, (Books 1 – 3 only)
Mary Wollstonecraft: Excerpt from A Vindication of the Rights of Women.
William Wordsworth: “Tintern Abbey” and “Intimations of Immortality.”
Karl Marx: The Communist Manifesto (all)

Part II:  An American Interlude

W. E. B. DuBois: The Souls of Black Folk (all)
Willa Cather: My Antonia (all)
John Ford: View the following three movies: Stagecoach, My Darling Clementine and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (these should be available at any large movie rental outlet or at public and university libraries).

Part III: The Modernist Enterprise

T. S. Eliot: “The Waste Land” (all)
Sigmund Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents (all)
Milan Kundera: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (all except the second story, Mother)
Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis, The Penal Colony and Other Stories (only The Metamorphosis and The Penal Colony)
James Baldwin: Notes of a Native Son
Martin Luther King, Jr.: Letter from Birmingham Jail
Hannah Arendt: Excerpt from The Origins of Totalitarianism

The textbooks may be obtained online through a price comparison website such as or in a variety of places, such as public and college libraries, new and used bookstores, or at Western’s Student Co-op Bookstore. Plan on purchasing your textbooks early and always be sure you are purchasing the correct edition of the book for this syllabus.

(See special note on the films for Part II).

REQUIREMENTS:  Due to COVID19 there will be NO Proctored Exams until students may safely return to Campus and Testing Centers

  1. Do all the reading and viewing.

  2. Take three examinations.  (One after each Part of the course.)  The exams are a combination of short essay (150 words), definition (explain briefly an important term or concept, 50 words), and fill in the blank (1-5 words).  Please note: Proctored exams may only be taken at accredited testing centers within the United States; exams will not be sent to international proctors.

  3. Write one paper for each of the assignments.  Work with 3 or 4 of the required texts in order to trace the development of a critical idea.  The goal of the paper is to allow you to explore in more depth one of the themes covered by the course.  I’m not looking for a single ‘right’ answer to any of these questions.  I am, however, looking for a reasoned argument supported by evidence.  Regarding the latter—how ‘much’ evidence—I would say that two to three references per page will be sufficient.  The length of the paper should be between 2000 and 2500 words.  Use standard methods for citations (MLA—Modern Language Association).

  1. Afro-American Culture:  DuBois, Baldwin and/or King, plus one additional Afro-American whom we did not read (for a total of three authors).  Select one theme present in the work of each writer and follow its historical development.  Possible themes are 1) the veil and dual consciousness, 2) madness (as anger or insanity), 3) the role of black music in American life, or 4) the struggle for social justice.

    You should not expect that the theme of, for instance, the veil would be present in DuBois in exactly the same way it appears in King.  You need to think what ‘the veil’ signifies (separation, misunderstanding, etc.) and then trace its meaning to the modern civil rights era.

  2. Women, Power and Culture:  Austen, Wollstonecraft and/or Cather, plus a contemporary woman writer of your choice (three authors total).  What is the field of action in which a woman can operate and expect to achieve any success?  How has this changed in the course of three centuries?  Be sure you select a clearly demarcated field, such as employment opportunities, status within the justice system, etc.  If you don’t, the paper will be stuck in an endless loop of generalities.

  3. Totalitarianism:  Rousseau or Marx, Kafka and Arendt (three authors).  Using Kafka and Arendt as modern ‘students’ of totalitarianism, select two characteristics of this ‘disease’ and trace the origin of each to Rousseau or Marx.  To what degree is it justifiable to ‘blame’ either Rousseau or Marx for the excesses of 20th century totalitarianism?  In other words, to what degree did 20th century thinkers distort the thought of Rousseau or Marx, either for personal advancement or honest stupidity?

  4. Modern Aesthetics:  Eliot, Kafka and Freud (all three).  Freud theorizes that the essential conflict within the human being and society at large is that between Eros and Thanatos.  After carefully explicating the theory of this conflict in Freud, analyze how this is manifest in the literary works of Eliot and Kafka.  Both poet and novelist can be classified, broadly, as symbolists—that is, writers who use the symbol rather than the narrative to convey meaning.  While the poem of Eliot and the stories of Kafka are comparatively short, they are very complex artworks, so don’t oversimplify your analysis.  Be patient and careful.  As with all these topics, feel free to use outside sources for clarification.



ALWAYS make a copy of your work BEFORE submitting it.  If lessons are lost, it is far easier to resubmit a copy than to rewrite an entire assignment.  All assignments must be completed in order to receive credit for the course.    All work must be submitted to the Western Online office.

Time Considerations (a helpful message from the Western Online office) – Organize your time so that you spread the work out over 10 or 12 weeks, just like a regular academic quarter.  Treat your Self-paced course as the serious learning experience that it is.  True learning takes time: time for reading, time for processing new information, time for reflection. 

Rushing, compressing your study time, can only harm your academic success.  It is wise to establish a reading and studying calendar as soon as you enroll in this course and then stick to it.  Learn from any common errors you make on your first exam, to improve your performance on subsequent ones.  Think about your paper long before you begin to write, to give yourself an opportunity to seek help from Professor Moore in time to make changes.  Good luck and have a pleasant educational journey.

Remember that grading takes time and our instructors have other classes and students, other obligations.  Therefore, your instructor may not be able to grade assignments instantly, to accommodate your deadline.  Allow time for mailing to and from the Western Online office and also back and forth between our office and your instructor.


For procedural matters, go through the Western Online Office. For specific text or assignment questions, call me at (360) 650-4074 OR you can send email to  You can find out my current office hours by calling the Honors Program office at (360) 650-3034.


Professor Moore received his B.A. in English from Claremont McKenna College.  He went on to earn his M.A. in English and Ph.D. in religion and literature from the University of Chicago.  His teaching experience was gained at Chicago Conservatory College, Whatcom Community College, and Western Washington University, and includes numerous courses in English, philosophy, liberal studies, and seminars for the honors program.  Prior to teaching at Western and Whatcom, Dr. Moore worked as a planner for the Nooksack Indian Tribe and for the Cascade-Islands Community Mental Health Center.  He is a widely published poet and also won first prize for fiction in PEN/National Endowment for the Arts Syndicated Fiction Project in the spring of 1987.


Course Summary:

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