Camus, Weil, and Arendt

Beyond Tradition I: The Crisis of Modernity: Making Sense of Our Historical Situation


This course was available in the past and may be presented again as part of the Basic Program of Liberal Education curriculum.

“Sense,” Santayana says, “is the foundation of everything.” The task of “making sense” of things is a distinctively modern enterprise, the effect of our having lost a unified, coherent, if sometimes oppressive and threatening world. The “crisis of modernity” registers the extremity, urgency, and difficulty of this task. This is the first of a three-quarter immersion in some of the best and most difficult social-theoretical, philosophical, literary, and artistic works of the 20th century. This quarter frames the general crisis of modernity through classic works of philosophy (Nietzsche, Camus) and of political, economic, and social theory (Arendt, Weil), in conjunction with Mann’s magisterial epic, Buddenbrooks. Intended to build upon and extend various themes the Modern Tradition sequence, this course does not presuppose or require familiarity with those texts.

Course Outline

Course Outline

Required Texts:

Arendt, Hannah, Between Past and Future [Penguin] 978-0143104810

Camus, Albert (tr. O’Brien), The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays [Vintage] 978-0679733737

Mann, Thomas, Buddenbrooks [Vintage] 978-0679752608

Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Will to Power [Vintage] 978-0394704371

Weil, Simone (tr. Wills and Petrie), Oppression and Liberty [Routledge] 978-0415254076 (or: [UMass] 978-0870232510)


Online registration deadline: Thursday, Sept 22 at 5 pm CT.

No class Nov 22

Taking an In Person Course: At Graham health and safety is our highest priority. As we resume on-site programming, we want to share COVID-19 requirements for attending.

In-person programming must adhere to University of Chicago guidelines, including the following measures:

  • All in-person participants must show proof of fully vaccinated status, defined as two weeks after the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine or two weeks after one dose of a single-dose vaccine.
  • It is strongly recommended that all in-person participants receive the COVID-19 booster shot(s).

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