HUMS 352, Modernities: American Imagination From the Gilded Age to the Cold War

Meeting Time: 
TTH 11:30am-12:50pm

Course Description:

Survey of major ideas, writings, and cultural movements that have shaped American life and thought from 1880 to 1990. Assignments encompass works of fiction, philosophy, social and political thought, and film. 

Every version of Modernities will seek to expose students to the provocative question of what “modernity” is, and whether it is one phenomenon or many. When does modernity begin? Students should be exposed to a palate of interpretive frameworks for understanding the question. The course is envisioned as a broad survey that will build on the sort of material covered in foundational courses, with more thematic coherence, historical context, and theoretical self-consciousness.


Students who wish to enroll in this course must also enroll in its Fall counterpart: American Imagination: From the Puritans to the Civil War

Led by:

Bryan Garsten's picture David Bromwich's picture

Professor Bryan Garsten is a Professor of Political Science and the Humanities, and Chair of the Humanities Program. He is the author of Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment as well as articles on political rhetoric and deliberation, the meaning of representative government, the relationship of politics and religion, and the place of emotions in political life.

Garsten is now finishing a book called The Heart of a Heartless World that examines the ethical, political and religious core of early nineteenth century liberalism in the United States and France. He has also edited Rousseau, the Enlightenment, and Their Legacies, a collection of essays by the Rousseau scholar Robert Wokler

Professor David Bromwich is a Sterling Professor of English. He has published widely on Romantic criticism and poetry, and on eighteenth-century politics and moral philosophy. His book Politics by Other Means concerns the role of critical thinking and tradition in higher education, and defends the practice of liberal education against political encroachments from both Left and Right. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other U.S. and British journals.

He is a frequent contributor of political blog posts on the Huffington Post. Since 2017, he has served as a trustee of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, NC. 


This course was last offered in the Spring of 2018. Testimonials are taken from student course evaluations.

  • “I would completely recommend this course to another student. I think it should be a civic requirement of every American to read the texts that were selected in this class (even if most, if not all of the texts were absent from my high school experience). The class serves as a first-rate canonical survey, rivaling the likes of DS and recalling a type of Humanities education that is difficult to find at Yale today”
  • “This is a truly exceptional course taught by exceptional professors. I could not recommend the American Imagination more highly to any Yale student, regardless of your academic interests. You will take a unique, incisive look at 20th-century American history, culture, literature, philosophy, and politics that can only be offered through such an interdisciplinary course taught by such gifted professors.”
  • “After taking the class, I can confidently say that I have a better understanding of what it means to be an American.”