The twentieth century, as the historian Eric Hobsbawm has said, was an “age of extremes.” This course serves as an introduction to this turbulent age, exploring themes in European history from the 1890s to the 1990s. We will survey the histories of world war, the rise and fall of fascism and communism, postwar migrations, the Cold War and decolonization, and the making of the European Community.
We will approach these themes through our analysis of a series of films, as film was one of the key vehicles of propaganda and politics in 20th-century Europe. This course is therefore intended to provide an opportunity for students to explore the diverse historical uses of film – and to sharpen their own skills of visual analysis – along with an overview of major themes in 20th-century European history. Through our explorations of key moments in the recent European past, we will consider broader questions of citizenship and identity in modern political life.
Readings will include Art Spiegelman's Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began; films will include early French classics by Georges Melies, as well as Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion, Sergei Eisenstein's Ten Days That Shook the World, Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, Michael Verhoeven's The Nasty Girl, Billy Wilder's One, Two, Three, Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle of Algiers, and Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine/Hate.
Readings and films will be explored in weekly discussion sections. Grades will be assigned on the basis of participation, a midterm exam, a final exam, and a paper.