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Studiegids

nl en

Great Books

Vak
2021-2022

Admission requirements

Required course(s):

None

Description

Modern Dictatorship and Totalitarianism, as depicted in great literary works.

There are many, many good historiographical works about the two totalitarian dictatorship of communism and nazism, and also some acute philosophical analyses, but to get a really existential grasp of what happened, what it was really like, and what were the causes, one must turn to a different kind of books that is closer to personal life, thought and emotion: great books of literature, that do not speak in general terms, but focus on and express the lives, thought, and emotions of concrete, individual people with whom we can sympathise. Hence, in this course we will read four memoirs, two novels. Only in the last week will we turn to a philosopher who is also a historian, Hannah Arendt. You will see that, thanks to the works read earlier, this magnificent, but very abstract treatise will really come to live.

Nazism
1. Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved
2. Klaus Mann, Mephisto
3. Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: a Memoir

Communism
4. Warlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales (selection)
5. Eugen Ruge, In Times of Fading Light
6. Czeslaw Milosz, The Capive Mind

  1. Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism (selection)

Course Objectives

Timetable

Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

We will take one week (two classes) for the discussion of each of the books listed above.

After we have discussed a book in class, the students will write a short (700 words) review of it, to be handed in at the beginning of the first class of the following week.

The 7th and last paper will be longer (1500 words), will be about totalitarianism, on the basis of the works read, and will have to be handed in on Friday 17:00 hours of Week 8.

Assessment Method

The final grade will depend on the grades for the six short papers (45%), the final paper (40%) and the participation in class (15%).

Reading list

  • Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved

  • Klaus Mann, Mephisto

  • Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: a Memoir

  • Warlam Shalamov, Kolyma Tales (selection)

  • Eugen Ruge, In Times of Fading Light

  • Czeslaw Milosz, The Capive Mind

  • Hannah Arendt, Origins of Totalitarianism

Registration

Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator, course.administration@luc.leidenuniv.nl.

Contact

Prof. dr. Andreas Kinneging

Remarks

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