Colgate University

First-Year Course Offerings — Fall 2022

FSEM 105   Challenges of Modernity
RestrictionsNo 2025 2024 2023
Core AreaChallenges of Modernity

Faculty Profile for Professor DuComb

Modernity is a crucial element of the intellectual legacy to which we are heirs. A matrix of intellectual, social, and material forces that have transformed the world over the last quarter millennium, modernity has introduced new problems and possibilities into human life. Within modernity, issues of meaning, identity, and morality have been critiqued in distinctive ways. People of different social classes, racial groups, ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual identities have contributed to an increasingly rich public discourse. The human psyche has been problematized, and the dynamic character of the world, both natural and social, has been explored. Urbanization and technological development have transformed the patterns of everyday life. Imperialism has had a complex and lasting impact on the entire globe. The human capability to ameliorate social and physical ills has increased exponentially, and yet so has the human capacity for mass destruction and exploitation. In this course, taught by an interdisciplinary staff, students explore texts from a variety of media that engage with the ideas and phenomena central to modernity. To ensure a substantially common experience for students, the staff each year chooses texts to be taught in all sections of the course. This component of the Core Curriculum encourages students to think broadly and critically about the world that they inhabit, asking them to see their contemporary concerns in the perspective of the long-standing discourses of modernity.

FSEM 105:What is modernity, and when did it begin? This slippery term has been variously dated to the European “discovery” of the Americas (1492), the crystallization of the scientific method (c1620), the dawn of the Enlightenment (c1650), the beginning of the industrial revolution (c1760), and the rejection of traditional forms in Western literature, theater, music, and visual art (c1860). This course interrogates each of these hypothetical points of origin, asking how the various strands of modernity—political, scientific, philosophical, economic, and artistic—have shaped the world we live in today. In keeping with Professor DuComb’s areas of interest and expertise, this section of the course lays a special emphasis on the performing arts as a mode of critical engagement with modernity. Students who successfully complete this seminar will satisfy the Challenges of Modernity core requirement.

Christian DuComb is Associate Professor and Chair of the Theater Department at Colgate University, where he teaches theater history, dramatic literature, and performance studies.