Program in European Cultural Studies



  • Efthymia Rentzou

Executive Committee

  • David A. Bell, History
  • Sandra L. Bermann, Comparative Literature
  • Eduardo L. Cadava, English
  • Brigid Doherty, German
  • Rubén Gallo, Spanish & Portuguese
  • Daniel Garber, Philosophy
  • Anthony T. Grafton, History
  • Wendy Heller, Music
  • Tera W. Hunter, History, ex officio
  • Jan-Werner Müller, Politics
  • Serguei A. Oushakine, Anthropology
  • Spyros Papapetros, Architecture
  • Eileen A. Reeves, Comparative Literature
  • Efthymia Rentzou, French & Italian
  • Kim Lane Scheppele, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
  • Esther H. Schor, English, ex officio
  • Thomas A. Trezise, French & Italian
For a full list of faculty members and fellows please visit the department or program website.

Program Information

The Program in European Cultural Studies (ECS) was established in 1975 on the joint initiative of faculty members in history, comparative literature, romance languages and literatures, politics, and architecture, under the leadership of the eminent cultural historian Carl E. Schorske (1915–2015). Its first certificate class graduated in 1979. Now housed on the second floor of Scheide Caldwell House within the Andlinger Center for the Humanities, ECS enjoys the administrative support of the Council of the Humanities. Committed since its founding to encouraging students' engagement at an international level, ECS now also endeavors to situate the study of Europe in broader global contexts.

Since its inception, the Program in European Cultural Studies has maintained two central aims: to deepen students’ understanding of European civilization, and to strengthen their command of cultural interpretation through interdisciplinary investigation. ECS brings together students and faculty from a wide range of departments in a common inquiry. Our focus is, broadly stated, the ways in which European societies, past and present, order reality, make sense of life, and communicate meaning across a range of disciplines and in a variety of media. In order to frame these wide-ranging intellectual problems in precise, productive, and engaging ways, ECS offers innovative, interdisciplinary seminars on topics in European history, literature, art, architecture, music, cinema, theater, politics, and philosophy.

Admission to the Program

Students from a wide variety of majors in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering choose to complete a certificate in European Cultural Studies. ECS courses involve interdisciplinary approaches to the analysis of the products of European culture, from novels, poems, operas, paintings, photographs, films, and philosophical treatises, to new media, urban geography, and land-use patterns. There are no prerequisites for admission to the ECS certificate program. However, ECS/EPS 301, ECS/EPS 302, and the HUM 216-219 sequence are each recognized as excellent gateway courses that also count toward fulfillment of the ECS certificate program requirements.

Students normally apply to join the program by the fall of their junior year. Early concentrators, latecomers, and students with further questions about the certificate are urged to contact Effie Rentzou, director, for additional information.

Program of Study

All students must complete either HUM 216-219 or ECS/EPS 301 or EPS/ECS 302 to fulfill the ECS core course requirement. In addition, they must complete a total of two more elective courses in ECS; these ECS elective courses may be taken at either the 300- or the 400-level. The majority of ECS courses are cross-listed with other departments in the humanities and social sciences.

The program has three final requirements: the ECS Excursion, ECS Faber Lecture and Colloquium, and ECS Senior Thesis Colloquium.

The ECS Excursion requirement and the ECS Faber Lecture and Colloquium requirement are normally completed during junior year. ECS certificate students take part in a full-day ECS Excursion to a cultural event or exhibition in New York. Offered in the fall and spring, the ECS Excursion typically takes place on a Friday or a Saturday, and always includes a discussion over a group meal. Participation in both parts of the ECS Excursion (the cultural event and the mealtime discussion) is required of all ECS certificate students. To complete the ECS Faber Lecture and Colloquium requirement, students attend the ECS Faber Lecture, which is given annually by a distinguished visiting scholar. Held in connection with the annual ECS Faber Lecture, the ECS Faber Colloquium offers certificate students the opportunity to join in a mealtime discussion with the ECS Faber Lecturer. Participation in both parts of the ECS Faber Lecture and Colloquium is required of all ECS certificate students.

In their senior year, ECS students participate in the Senior Thesis Colloquium. Although ECS certificate students complete their theses under the direction of their home departments, over the course of the spring term of the senior year, all ECS seniors join the ECS director to meet one day a week, over a meal, for discussion of common challenges of research, conceptualization, organization, and writing. Each student shares an excerpt from the senior thesis with the group during one of the Colloquium's meetings. Senior thesis excerpts are circulated in advance, and active participation in the weekly Senior Thesis Colloquium discussions is required of all ECS seniors. Though most ECS students address European topics in their theses, this is not a requirement of the program. For the purposes of the Senior Thesis Colloquium, certificate students from the sciences or engineering may circulate a paper written for an ECS course in place of an excerpt from the senior thesis.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements will receive a certificate upon graduation.


ECS 301 Turning Points in European Culture (also
EPS 301
) HA

Seminar draws on expertise of guest faculty from Princeton and elsewhere to provide a broad, multidisciplinary perspective on turning points in European culture from the late middle ages to the present. Gateway course for ECS and Contemporary European Politics and Society. Topics in literature, art, music, philosophy, political theory, history of science. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: Staff

ECS 302 Landmarks of European Identity (See EPS 302)

ECS 303 Memory, Democracy, and Public Culture: Berlin and Its Pasts (See GLS 302)

ECS 304 Approaches to European History (See HIS 281)

ECS 306 Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz (See PHI 303)

ECS 308 Postcolonial Literature/Postcolonial Criticism (See COM 308)

ECS 313 Music and Society in France, c.1750 to the Present (See MUS 266)

ECS 315 Language, Identity, Power (See ANT 326)

ECS 318 Image of the Jew in Russian Visual Culture and Literature (See SLA 318)

ECS 319 The Modern Period (See COM 318)

ECS 320 Cultural Systems Not offered this year

Symbolic systems and social life in specific historical eras. Topics will vary. Recent courses include, for example, magic, art, and science in Renaissance culture, political discourse and nationalism, culture and inequality, history of technology, and the rhetoric of new media. Instructed by: Staff

ECS 321 Cultural Systems (also
SPA 333
COM 389
) Not offered this year LA

Symbolic systems and social life in specific historical eras. Topics will vary. Recent courses include, for example, magic, art, and science in Renaissance culture, political discourse and nationalism, culture and inequality, history of technology, and the rhetoric of new media. Instructed by: R. Gallo

ECS 330 Communication and the Arts Not offered this year LA

The arts and the media in different cultures. Topics will vary, for example, history of the book, art/architecture and society, opera and nationalism, literature and photography, theater and politics. Instructed by: Staff

ECS 331 Communication and the Arts (also
HIS 430
COM 317
) Not offered this year LA

The arts and the media in different cultures. Topics will vary, for example, history of the book, art/architecture and society, opera and nationalism, literature and photography, theater and politics. Instructed by: A. Grafton

ECS 332 Black, Queer, Jewish Italy (See ITA 322)

ECS 334 Venice, Theater of the World (See MUS 334)

ECS 335 The 'Hidden Causes' of History: Integrating the Social and the Economic (See FRE 328)

ECS 336 Poetries of Resistance (See COM 335)

ECS 337 The Confessional Self (See FRE 325)

ECS 338 Fascism: Politics and Culture (also
POL 473
) Fall HA

The course examines the history of fascism, with a focus on Italy and Germany. It also asks whether the concept of fascism is still useful for understanding contemporary developments. Special emphasis is placed on the evolution of fascism as a form of political ideology, on the expression of fascist ideas in film and architecture, and on the question whether fascism can be understood as a matter of individual and collective psychology. Students will become familiar with a range of theories of fascism, as well as larger trends in twentieth-century visual culture and literature. Instructed by: J. Müller

ECS 339 5 Ways of Reading Don Quixote (See SPA 340)

ECS 340 Literature and Photography (also
COM 340
) Not offered this year LA

A survey of the history of the rapport between literature and photography, looking closely at a number of literary and theoretical texts that differently address questions central to both literature and photography: questions about the nature of representation, reproduction, memory and forgetting, history, images, perception, and knowledge. One three-hour seminar. Instructed by: E. Cadava

ECS 341 What is Vernacular Filmmaking? - Rhetoric for Cinema Studies (See COM 341)

ECS 343 Politics and Architecture in Twentieth-Century Europe (also
POL 406
ARC 343
ART 352
) SA

The course examines the interplay between architecture and the built environment on the one hand and political belief ideas on the other. Our focus is on the twentieth century, sometimes dubbed an "age of ideologies." We will not assume that ideas are in uncomplicated ways reflected in architecture, nor that the descriptions architects give of their own work and intentions can be taken at face value. Students will become familiar with major architectural theories, different approaches in political theory, and also learn how to craft arguments at the intersection of politics and aesthetics. Instructed by: J. Müller

ECS 344 Race in France (See FRE 334)

ECS 345 Modernism and Modernity in Literature and the Visual Arts (See GER 374)

ECS 346 Music and the Early Modern Soundscape: London, Rome, Vienna (See MUS 346)

ECS 349 Texts and Images of the Holocaust (See COM 349)

ECS 354 East European Literature and Politics (See SLA 345)

ECS 356 Eastern Europe: Culture and History (See SLA 366)

ECS 358 Surrealism: Sex, Dreams, and Revolution (See FRE 358)

ECS 359 Narrating Pandemics Now (See SPA 252)

ECS 361 Styles of Literature and Science in 18th- and 19th-Century Europe (See FRE 337)

ECS 363 Democracy and Education (See FRE 348)

ECS 364 France and its Empire from the Renaissance to Napoleon, 1500-1815 (See HIS 364)

ECS 366 France on Display: Shaping the Nation under the Third Republic, 1870-1940 (See FRE 350)

ECS 367 Topics in 19th- and 20th-Century French Literature and Culture (See FRE 367)

ECS 368 Romanticism and the Age of Revolutions (See ENG 340)

ECS 369 Beyond Crisis Contemporary Greece in Context (See COM 369)

ECS 370 Weimar Germany: Painting, Photography, Film (See GER 370)

ECS 374 Afterlives of the Iliad (See COM 374)

ECS 376 The Body in Space: Art, Architecture, and Performance (also
ARC 376
ART 386
) Spring LA

An interdisciplinary investigation of the status of the human body in the modern reinvention of space within the overlapping frames of art, architecture, and the performing arts, from the fin-de-siècle to the present. Works by artists, architects, theater designers, and film makers who address the human figure in space will be supplemented by readings on architectural theory, intellectual and cultural history, psychoanalysis, anthropology, and aesthetics. Course will address issues of bodily empathy, the relation between bodily perception and space, as well as the animation and mechanization of bodies and things inside modern enclosures. Instructed by: S. Papapetros

ECS 378 Nature vs. Culture: A European Problem (also
ENV 378
) EM

Where does nature end? Where does culture begin? In this seminar, we will walk the contested borderlands claimed by both, exploring key works of literature, art, and film from the Middle Ages to the present that challenge, represent, perform, condition, and subvert our notions of morality and human conduct. Is nature cruel or edifying? Should human values be informed by botany? How can an earthquake become an act of natural justice? Is the environment a field of scientific study or a human-made reality? Studying these cases of European culture will force us to address ethical issues and moral judgments of lasting fundamental relevance. Instructed by: F. Fuchs

ECS 379 History and Memory in Contemporary Spain (War, Dictatorship and Democracy) (See SPA 379)

ECS 381 Incorrect Literature: Modernist Masterpieces and the Controversies They Unleashed (also
COM 458
) Fall LA

Why do we continue to read politically incorrect novels? This seminar will analyze a selection of controversial masterpieces of European modern fiction, from Spain to Austria, that were deemed offensive. Some of them touch on issues that are still important to us, like race and ethnicity, while others touched on issues such as religion and national identity that were sensitive at the time but are less so today. We will read excerpts from Plato to Marx on the function literature plays in society. Is literature inherently evil, as Bataille suggested? Instructed by: R. Gallo

ECS 382 The Later Romantics (See ENG 341)

ECS 383 The Future of Reading (See FRE 310)

ECS 386 Topics in Comparative Literature (See COM 370)

ECS 387 German Intellectual History (See GER 306)

ECS 388 Science and Medicine in the Early Modern World (See HIS 294)

ECS 389 Environmental Film Studies: Research Film Studio (also
CHV 389
HUM 389
ENV 389
) Spring LA

Filmmaking is a mural art. Due to the contemporary ubiquity of screens, our physical environment is increasingly eclipsed in the human experience. Yet vernacular filmmaking does not simply replace our physical nature, rather lets it emerge just as terroir wines reveal the natural environmental factors of winemaking without industrial tempering. Less industrial, more poetic film production can teach us a more respectful relation to our environment. Together with guest professors and filmmakers, we will study the interface of environmental and film studies through examples from masterpieces of cinema and our own short research film exercises. Instructed by: E. Kiss

ECS 391 Holocaust Testimony (also
JDS 391
) Spring LA

This course focuses on major issues raised by but also extending beyond Holocaust survivor testimony, including the communication of trauma, genres of witnessing, the ethical implications of artistic representation, conflicts between history and memory, the fate of individuality in collective upheaval, the condition of survival itself, and the crucial role played by reception in enabling and transmitting survivors' speech. Instructed by: T. Trezise

ECS 396 Sex, Violence, Sacrilege in Enlightenment Fiction (See COM 397)

ECS 397 Polish Literature on Screen (See SLA 396)

ECS 403 A Literary History of Early Modern Spain (See SPA 403)

ECS 405 Architectural Colonialities: Building European Power across the Globe (also
ARC 410
ART 405
) Fall HALA

Entwined with power and capital, architecture is inseparable from coloniality. In colonized lands, architecture concretized the European claim and facilitated systems of domination. But coloniality also influenced architecture of the metropole and catalyzed the international expansion of modernization. Tracing various phases of coloniality--from bureaucratic colonialism to postcolonial recovery--and scales of architectural design--climate, city, monument, and ornament--the course interrogates sites where European architecture colluded with colonial power, and reflects on the resistances that condition its legacy in colonialist expansion. Instructed by: S. Papapetros, V. Sohaili

ECS 407 Contemporary Spain: An Advanced Introduction (See SPA 407)

ECS 414 Agency, Persons, Aesthetics. Epistemologies of the Polis (See COM 414)

ECS 415 Fear and France (See FRE 414)

ECS 416 Class, Desire, and the Novel (See COM 416)

ECS 417 Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace: Writing as Fighting (See SLA 415)

ECS 419 Conceptions of the Sensory (See COM 419)

ECS 421 Europe in the Making of Early Modern Chinese Art (See ART 421)

ECS 434 Counterworlds: Innovation and Rupture in Communities of Artistic Practice (See HUM 434)

ECS 445 Remembering Deportation and Genocide in France since the Second World War (See HIS 445)

ECS 448 Seminar. 17th- and 18th-Century Art (See ART 448)

ECS 449 The French Enlightenment (See HIS 449)

ECS 450 Empathy and Alienation: Aesthetics, Politics, Culture (See HUM 450)

ECS 451 The Artist as Idea (See ART 451)

ECS 458 Seminar. Modern Architecture (See ART 458)

ECS 475 The Work of Art and the Problem of Experience in Rilke (See GER 475)

ECS 486 Order and Chaos in Eighteenth-Century European Art (See ART 486)

ECS 487 The Age of Democratic Revolutions (See HIS 487)