Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Humanities in the Modern World
Spring 2024

Humanities 304
Section 01 [HUM]
Spring 2024
MWF 1:10 – 2:00

3 Credits – No Pre-Requisites
Humanities / Foreign Languages
SLN 04804
Avery 8

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Avery Hall 355 — Washington State University
Hours: MWF 10:00 – 11:00, and by appointment.
Phone: 509-335-4832
E-mail: delahoyd@wsu.edu


Course Description:

What has the “Modern World” been about for the last 100 years? Arts and Humanities exist to help us put some perspective on our world.
When I’ve asked the question in the past — what was the last century about? — I hear about Nazis and computers. If this were apt, then woe to the idea of humanity. Some say technology. Peachy, but the invention of the plow and the printing press were also technology. Some say progress. Towards what? and how is that not applicable to every century except for the so-called Dark Ages (and the one coming soon)? I’ve heard that if it weren’t for the 20th century we wouldn’t be where we are today. The hell?! What is that supposed to mean, and where exactly are we today? Pullman?

This is not a history course. It has more to do with critical thinking and experiencing than about factoids, dates, or Wikipedia-like information — all fairly worthless. Fortunately, much was happening in the arts throughout the last 100 years, including some attempts to gain perspective on machinery, technology, dehumanization, and experience. This Humanities course is designed to acquaint you better with the human, thoughtful, and innovative side to life through literature, music, art, architecture, film, fashion, and other accomplishments of the so-called modern period and up to the present.

I am particularly interested in how the principles and struggles raised in these artistic materials speak to conditions still harassing us in contemporary times and culture. I will encourage you to see and to make connections between ideas and attitudes in classroom discussions, and to develop some expertise in new areas that interest you.

Required Texts:

Colette, Sidonie-Gabrielle. Chéri and The Last of Chéri. 1920, 1926. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001. ISBN: 0374528012.

Sartre, Jean Paul. No Exit and Three Other Plays. 1944. Vintage Books, 1989. ISBN: 0679725164.

Robbe-Grillet, Alain. Jealousy. 1959. Grove Press, 1994.
ISBN: 0802151063. [Or the single Riverrun Press edition.]

Churchill, Caryl. Churchill Plays: Vol. 2: Softcops, Top Girls, Fen, and Serious Money. Methuen, 2003. ISBN: 978-0413622709.

[I will try to provide pdfs or links to online texts. Lots of other crucial and cool materials will be provided on Canvas.]

Student Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the course, students should be achieved the following objectives. The Course Requirements detail how these outcomes will be addressed and evaluated in the class work.

  • Students will gain exposure to modern thought as manifested in some of the major artistic works of the last century which have shaped our culture and the way we think.
  • Students will increase intellectual maturation and clarification of their own values through examination of ideas and attitudes in literary/cultural contexts and through articulation of these in academic discourse.
  • Students will develop skills in critical thinking, verbal analysis, and detection of subtlety through reading and communicating (in discussion and writing) about literature and other arts.

Course Requirements:

A significant part of at least your “job” of being a student this semester (but maybe also part of your life) is focusing on the study of the past century’s arts and humanities. This course is packed with “stuff” and studying it all can be demanding, but at least we have the opportunity to be doing it together as a learning community. The university provides a space and a time in which I, as instructor, do my best to craft an opportunity for engagement and learning (and, truth be told, the thrill of it all). In no strict numerical way, absences will end up affecting your final grade; but worse would be your general “absence”: that is, approaching the class under the assumption that your education is a consumer product being served to you, that you can “multi-task” between class and your phone, that you can coast along with a cursory skimming of Sparknotes, that the experience should be reduceable to some kind of “study guide” (if it were, we wouldn’t need to meet at all). Do you even have the capacity to be present and “plugged in” to the classroom experience? You will never realize how rewarding this can be unless you are. Because classroom interaction is essential for this to be a valuable experience, and because occasional quizzes and homework writings will be exchanged and in-class voting will take place, absences will affect your grade regardless of reason, and no incompletes will be given at the end of the semester. Here’s the math:

I will frequently ask for relatively minor homework assignments to be turned in (or submitted electronically on the Canvas, designed primarily to stimulate subsequent discussion and to practice conventions for writing about literature and the arts. At other times I will ask you to answer questions in writing in class, often ad lib responses to the reading or listening or observing before class discussion begins. Homework assignments and quizzes will receive numerical grades (points) and, although these writings cannot be made up (except for a couple optional writings that can take their place), the final semester totals will be curved if necessary. (30%)

You will be responsible for some sort of contribution to the learning community that may serve also as work towards one of the written projects: perhaps a brief but impressive lead-off presentation on a topic arranged in advance that is dazzling, informative, and glamorous, involving some research, or parallel outside reading, and possibly snazzy visual aids; or a handy web page. Class participation and other service to the learning community — occasional group work, for example — will be expected. (10%)

Your presence will be required at two exams. No make-ups will be crafted for your convenience. Accompanying the in-class portions of each exam will be a written take-home essay turned in on the same day. Late essays will receive F grades; missing the exams or failure to turn anything in, even late, will result in an F for the course. (Each exam 30%)

Students with Disabilities:

I am committed to providing assistance to help you be successful in this course. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and need accommodations to participate in this class fully, please either visit or call the Access Center (Washington Building 217; 509-335-3417) at the start of the semester to schedule an appointment with an Access Advisor. All accommodations must be approved through the Access Center. For more information contact a Disability Specialist on your home campus.

Academic Integrity:

As an institution of higher education, Washington State University is committed to principles of truth and academic honesty. All members of the University community share the responsibility for maintaining and supporting these principles. When a student enrolls in Washington State University, the student assumes an obligation to pursue academic endeavors in a manner consistent with the standards of academic integrity adopted by the University. Any student plagiarizing on any assignment or cheating on any exam in this class will receive an F for the course and will be reported to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability, who remind us that Washington State University reserves the right and the power to discipline or to exclude students who engage in academic dishonesty. Cheating is defined in the Standards for Student Conduct WAC 504-26-010 (3). It is strongly suggested that you read and understand these definitions and stop plagiarizing that essay on file in your sleazy frat.

Safety and Emergency Notification:

Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University, and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for “an active shooter incident,” which, disturbingly, seems to be precisely the one emergency the university expects. Remain ALERT (through direct observation or emergency notification), ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety (and the safety of others if you are able).

These are most of the required syllabus inclusions, but the suffocating mountain of more of these statements perpetually added by administrators is making it impossible to create a syllabus that isn’t a booklet. (If all syllabi are supposed to include these, why aren’t they just sent to all students from the university itself instead of rendering the syllabi unreadable and moot? — because you wouldn’t read them?) Here’s more.


No class should be about the professor’s face blabbing, especially with Humanities classes where it should be featuring the art works, film clips, primary texts, document-camera materials and powerpoint slides on a big screen, and musical tracks. Most importantly, though, I rely on you to contribute towards making this an experience. It’s too easy for too many students to slink to the back of the classroom and screw around on phones all semester, minimally existing, certainly not being a part of anything authentically happening. Make some extra effort to chime in to help make this a dynamic experience.