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HIS 65 — Modernism in the Metropolis: Artists and Intellectuals in the Modern European City, 1848–1945 (an MLA-style course)

Quarter: Spring
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: On-campus (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Apr 11—May 30
Time: 6:30—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Apr 13
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: Credit only; no NGR/letter grade
Tuition: $585
Instructor(s): Peter Mann
Limit: 19
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
6:30—8:50 pm (PT)
Apr 11—May 30
8 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 13
2 Units
Grade Restriction
Credit only; no NGR/letter grade
Peter Mann
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)

Please note: This course is open to students who have not previously enrolled in an MLA-style course through Stanford Continuing Studies.

This course aims to introduce those interested in pursuing a degree in the Stanford Master of Liberal Arts Program to the kind of seminar they would likely encounter in the program. Students will face the same kind of intellectual challenges, the same kind of opportunities to engage in weekly discussion, and the same kind of stimulus to write persuasive research essays. Students are required to take this course for credit, submit written work, and contribute to class discussions, as happens in all MLA seminars. However, this course may not be taken for a letter grade, though students’ written work will receive extensive feedback from the instructor. For more information on the MLA Program, visit mla.stanford.edu.


Since the Enlightenment, intellectuals and artists have been agents of agitation during times of social ferment—as challengers of tradition, creators of new ideals and identities, pioneers of utopias, and restorers of imagined pasts. This course explores the role of intellectuals over a transformational century and across five European cities—Paris, St. Petersburg, Vienna, Madrid, and Berlin. We will begin in Baudelaire's Paris after the failed revolution of 1848 and the dawn of the cultural transformation marked by modernity and modernism. We will move on to St. Petersburg in the 1860s, site of a clash among the ideas of Romanticism, liberalism, and socialism and home to the Russian nihilism depicted by Turgenev and Dostoevsky. Then on to the heady atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Vienna, taut with sexual and political tensions as expressed by Freud and the paintings of Klimt and Kokoschka. We will also visit Madrid in the wake of the Spanish-American War and the Silver Age of Spanish literature that emerged in response. Next, we will traverse the trenches of World War I to the “voluptuous panic” of Weimar-era Berlin, teeming with the expressionist films of Murnau and Lang and the art of Max Beckmann and Otto Dix. Finally, we will arrive back in Paris at the end of World War II for the birth of existentialism with Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus and the imagining of a new Europe from the ruins.

Lecturer, Master of Liberal Arts Program, Stanford

Peter Mann is a writer, cartoonist, and historian of modern Europe. He received a PhD in history and humanities from Stanford, where he teaches in the Master of Liberal Arts Program. His debut novel, The Torqued Man, was named a Best Book of 2022 by The New Yorker. He has also published on 20th-century German and Spanish history and draws an online comic called The Quixote Syndrome.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism Is a Humanism (ISBN 978-0300115468)
(Required) Joseph Roth, What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933 (ISBN 978-0393325829)
(Required) Arthur Schnitzler , Desire and Delusion: Three Novellas (ISBN 978-1566636032)
(Required) Hugo von Hofmannsthal, The Lord Chandos Letter (ISBN 978-1590171202 )
(Required) Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground (ISBN 978-0679734529)
(Required) Miguel de Unamuno, Mist (ISBN 978-0252068942)
(Required) Jonathan Franzen, The Kraus Project (ISBN 978-1250056030)
(Recommended) Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (ISBN 978-0140441475)