The Idea of Europe - SCL800

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


From the French Revolution to the European Union, the term 'Europe' has long been a placeholder for a large number of utopian, internationalist aspirations. These aspirations are necessarily culturally and politically contingent; to trace the history of cultural constructions of Europe is to hold a mirror up to its changing intellectual faces. Focusing on a series of influential texts published at significant moments in the recent history of the continent, this module investigates how the changing ‘idea of Europe’ reflects the changing priorities of cultural discourse. In particular, it considers the key role – but also contested – played by Paris in particular as a European cultural capital, central to the idea of Europe and to the development of European culture. The texts studied on this module range across disciplines and genres, and include poems and pamphlets, essays and lectures, philosophy and politics. Through studying these texts in their socio-political contexts, the idea of Europe is triangulated through reference to a number of key categories (e.g. ‘prophecy’; ‘crisis’; ‘utopia’; Europe as ‘conservative’; Europe as ‘progressive’). The overall aim of this module is to explore what it means to be – in Friedrich Nietzsche’s words – a ‘good European’, and to consider the central role played by Paris in the emergence of modern European culture.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 20


This module is compulsory for students studying on the MA in European Culture.

Method of assessment

Essay (5000 words) - 100%

Indicative reading

Blake, W, Europe: A Prophecy (1794), in The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David V. Erdman (New York: Doubleday, 1988);
Casanova, P, The World Republic of Letters (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007);
Habermas, J, Europe: The Faltering Project (Cambridge: Polity, 2009);
Madame de Stael, On Literature Considered in Its Relation to Social Institutions (1800), in Major Writings of Germaine de Stael, trans. Vivian Folkenflik (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992);
Milosz, C, 'Child of Europe' (1946), in Czealaw Milosz, New and Collected Powms 1931-2001 (New York: Ecco Press, 2003);
Nietzsche, F, Beyond Good and Evil, ed. Rolf-Peter Horstmann and Judith Norman ([1886]; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002);
Novalis, 'Christendom or Europe' (1979) in Novalis, Philsophical Writings, ed. Margaret Mahony Stoljar (Albany: SUNY, 1997);
Steiner, G, The Idea of Europe: An Essay (London and New York: Overlook Duckworth, 2015);
Valery, P, 'The Crisis of the Mind', (1919), in The Collected Works of Paul Valery, volume 10, trans. Denise Folliot and Jackson Matthews (New York: Pantheon Books, 1962).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the history of the theorization of Europe and the European as these concepts pertain to the idea of culture;
Students will be able to grasp the history and changing nature of the role of Paris in relation to the idea of European culture, and its status as a capital of culture;
Students will be able to deploy critical arguents that take account of the historical, political, literary, and philosopical discourses on the idea of Europe and crisis;
Students will be able to make cogent critical analysis of literary and theoretical texts on the subject of Europe, the European, and the centrality of Paris in the formation of European cultural identities;
Students will be able to show an in-depth understanding of the relation between the idea of Europe, cosmopolitanism, and modernity.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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