The module will prepare students to think critically about the forces shaping ways of being in the contemporary world, with attention to how 'the modern' has emerged from innovations and continuities in modes of production, reproduction and communication in the past two centuries.
This module examines the technological and economic revolutions that shape human cultures, with a particular focus from the 17th century to the early 20th century roots of modernity and the impacts of recent and developing technological innovations. Students will be introduced to basic issues in scientific and technological developments impacting upon the contemporary world and will, building on their understanding of these, investigate their ramifications in social practices and ideations, in philosophical discourse and in the fields of aesthetic and literary production.
Students will be required to think critically about the ways different disciplines respond to and are shaped by technological and social developments, and will be encouraged to engage these from a cross-disciplinary perspective.
Overall, the module will develop multi-disciplinary understandings of the history of the contemporary world and will encourage students to become aware of, and to understand, the 'unseen' influences which enable and constrain our ways of being so as to both work with them and, where appropriate, seek to shape them.
Complimentary modules: Modes of Reasoning (Autumn and Spring), Understanding the Contemporary (Spring)
This module appears in the following module collections.
The programmes of study to which the module contributes
BA in Liberal Arts (Honours)
Method of assessment
100% coursework (Reading diary (20%), 1000 word essay (30%), 2000 word essay (50%)
Jeremy Black, War and Technology (Indiana 2013).
Susan Buck-Morss, Dreamworld and Catastrophe: the Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West (MIT 2000).
Leo Charney and Vanessa Schwaretz, eds. Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life (California 1995)
Stuart Elden, Mapping the Present: Heidegger, Foucault and the Project of a Spatial History (Continuum 2001).
James Gleick, The Information, A History, a Theory, A Flood. (Fourth Estate, 2012)
Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs & Women: the Reinvention of Nature (FAB 1991)
Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918 (Harvard 1983).
David Nye, Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940 (MIT 1990).
Gregory Schrempp, The Ancient Mythology of Modern Science: A Mythologist Looks (Seriously) at
Popular Science Writing (McGill-Queens 2012).
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On completion of this module, students will be able to:
Demonstrate knowledge of the forces and events shaping contemporary thought and behaviour across a range of practices and disciplines.
Demonstrate an awareness of the relation of key ideas informing representations and critiques of the contemporary period with the matrices of technological and social changes in which they have developed.
Demonstrate an understanding of the varying ways in which different disciplines and practices – across the arts, the social sciences, history and politics - conceptualise the contemporary period and its concerns.
Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of forms of representation that have emerged in the contemporary period.
Show an ability to relate issues in contemporary politics and society to developments in science and technology.
Demonstrate an ability to formulate and intellectually respond to the problems and challenges shaping contemporary culture and society.
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