Nationalism and Modernity in Central Europe around 1900

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Students on-site
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Course Description: 

At the turn of the 20th century, nationalist agendas in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy alternated between achieving autonomy within the Habsburg realm and creating separatist nation states. This course explores the intellectual and artistic evolution of Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, and Austrian national and nationalist identification(s) as they were constructed, debated, popularized, and transformed in the arts and media around 1900. Modernization processes including secularization, distribution of scientific knowledge, emancipation of minority groups and women and social mobility were integral to shaping nationalist ideologies and re/constructing narratives. Leading journalists, patrons, and artists promoted a range of modern aesthetics and new styles in architecture, design, fashion, children’s toys to evoke sentiments of group-belonging and loyalty, including the Secessionist movement, Impressionism, Expressionism, Symbolism, Cubism, Primitivism and Folk art. The identification of “insiders” and “outsiders” within varied nationalist agendas underscored the important roles Jews played in cultural networks and artistic productions in a variety of historical situations.

Course discussions will address the role of language in securing professional and group rights and establishing criteria concerning the national canon in literature and art; relations between folk traditions and nationalism; relations between religious and nationalist activism, expressing conflicting or unified interests in historical heroes and iconic symbols; showing how ideas about Heimat prompted competition between country and city, natural or urban landscape; how architecture defined competing or interrelating characteristics of the nation including native or foreign and nostalgic or progressive. Further topics address strategies of minority groups to secure pluralistic citizenship as integral part of the future autonomous or separate state.

Learning Outcomes: 

Learning activities and teaching methods:

Classes are based on lecture, discussing reading materials and analyzing texts and visuals instrumentalized in the constructions of nationalism.


The student will obtain analytical tools to understand the evolution of national agendas in relation to plural modernism in the arts and in the media during this period and critical consideration of concepts of nation, nationalism, national activism, national indifference, groups of interests and cultural production through contextual analyses.


In-class participation (10%), one class reading or theme related presentation (30%), final paper of 3000 words (60%)

Students are expected to engage with the readings in class discussions, to present a reading assignment or chosen topic in class, and to submit a final paper.