Study Questions

Set 1

HUM 3303  Modern Western Culture

Fall, 2008

1.  Mary Wollstonecraft-Godwin is impatient of what she calls "ladies."  What does she mean by the word?  What would Mary say of today's women?  is the fight won?  Or hopelessly lost?  What is a "lady" in today's lexicon on feminism?  How would our male writers weigh in on this issue? Would Nietzsche support her definition? Support your observations with detailed references to the relevant texts.
2.  The word "patriot" is very important to Mary Wollstonecraft.  Rousseau is fond of it, and the idea of the "patriot" is ubiquitous in the pamphlets and speeches of revolutionary France. Not every author finds the "patriot" praiseworthy.  As Dr. Johnson (Samuel, not Larry) once said, "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."   Was Nietzsche a "patriot?"The word and concept is still critical in western culture today.  But what does it mean? Using our authors construct a definition of the word as each author defines it, and then, using those definitions, outline the problems in the use of the word and concept today.
3.  War and Revolution are certainly very much on Dr. Wren's mind as he gathers material for this course.  One can hear war even in Beethoven's music and it is certainly a concern for artists like Jacques Louis David.  Nietzsche is fond of the language of war as well.  Are revolutions naturally and inevitably violent?  Why, or why not?
4.   I've spent some time talking to you about the linkage between aesthetic ideas and what might be termed a "scientific" appreciation of the universe, its works and effects. I have also dwelt at some length on the careers of Napoleon and Beethoven, characterizing them as icons for "romanticism" -- a word which I have used in more than one context. Define the term "romantic" as you think (1) Beethoven, (2) Napoleon, (3) Rousseau, and (4) Mary Wollstonecraft-Godwin  each might perceive it. Now for the hard part -- SO WHAT?
5.  All of the authors of the books we are studying just now seem to be very much concerned with the idea of struggle.  For some the struggle is internal; for others, external.  Yet, each author brings to the problem a differing vocabulary and hierarchy of values.  Your challenge is to differentiate between  Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Wollstonecraft-Godwin on how they define struggle.  
6. Political structure and the dynamics licensed and constrained by such structures are primary concerns for all of our writers in this part of the course.  However, there is considerable disagreement as to the point of origin for these political structures.   Napoleon, the practical politician and intellectual child of Rousseau, argues that "self interest" and "fear" generate political structure and inform political action. Would Rousseau agree with the Emperor?  Why, or why not?  What about Nietzsche?
7. Edmund Burke, an eminent English politician,  supported the American Revolution, but opposed strenuously the revolution in France.  He gave as one of his reasons for opposing the French "as a people, the French are far too emotional and passionate to govern themselves."  Compose a  response to Mr. Burke from Rousseau's perspective.  Now compose one as Napoleon.  What, if anything, did you learn from these two exercises?  Oddly enough, Burke's statement echoes a common argument used against the full empowerment of women.  Now compose a response from Mary Wollstonecraft.
8.. Compare and contrast the educations of Rousseau, Wollstonecraft-Godwin, and Nietzsche.  What value did each put on education?  Anything of note there?  What are the ends of education according to all of these worthies?  What would they say of the education you are receiving and what you intend to do with it?