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Humanities 002A. Revolution! (4 units)
Sven Erik Rose

TR 1:40-3:00P
106 Wellman Hall

CRN 91846

Note: HUM 002A can be repeated one time for credit if topic differs.

Course Description: Revolutions by definition aim to change the rules of the status quo. Because established ways of thinking and acting can no longer be taken for granted during periods of revolution, revolutions tend to require and inspire dynamic reflection on the rapidly changing circumstances, strategies and goals of the revolutionary project itself. In other words, revolutionary thought tries to think about how to change the given order of things (social, economic, political, cultural and intellectual) while the very rules for thinking are themselves changing. Abiding questions for revolutionaries have thus been: "What is a revolution?" "What do we want, and how can we achieve it?"

In this course, we will examine a wide range of revolutionary projects--from the American, French and Haitian Revolutions of the 18th and early 19th centuries to 20th century revolutions in Russia, China and Cuba to the revolutionary movements of the 1960s and 70s to contemporary projects aimed at revolutionizing society in various parts of the world.

Focusing on historical documents, manifestoes, images, and films, we will become familiar with the various ways that revolutionaries have reimagined their world and theorized the means to transform it. We will pay especially close attention to what we could call revolutionary styles of thought: how revolutionaries imagine and articulate--conceptually and rhetorically--the stakes of the fast-changing projects they advocate, and how they aspire to collapse, as much as possible, the distance between thought and action.

Our explorations will take us into areas where revolutionary movements and avant-garde aesthetics meet, such as in Surrealism in the 1920s and 30s, in early Soviet cinema, or in the Situationist movement of the 1950s and 60s. Moreover, from Che Guevara to the Black Panther movement of the 1960s and 70s, and to more contemporary social movements, we will also trace how past and present revolutionaries and revolutionary projects have been remembered and mediatized as memes and icons.

Students in this course will:

  • Grapple with what it means to propose, imagine, and make revolution
  • Discern strategies employed in revolutionary speeches and manifestos
  • Situate revolutionary speech and action in its historical context
  • Recognize how past revolutions and revolutionaries have been remembered and mediatized (as memes, icons, etc.)
  • Practice close rhetorical analysis
  • Develop competence in analyzing primary documents and secondary sources
  • Gain experience articulating an original critical argument orally and in writing

Prerequisite: None.

GE credit (New): Arts & Humanities, World Cultures, and Writing Experience.

Format: Lecture - 3 hours; Writing.


  • All readings will be distributed electronically

About the Instructor: Sven-Erik Rose is an Associate Professor of German and Chairman of the Department of German and Russian.