School of Athen by Raphael

LBST 420 The Modern Experience and Beyond Course Outline - Spring 2012


LBST 420 is an examination of important works of Western literature, philosophy, social science, science, art and music from the late 19th into the 21st Centuries. Through seminar discussion of key works by important modern and postmodern thinkers, we will investigate issues revealing radical shifts towards contemporary cultural perspectives, including individual alienation, the problem of technology, moral relativism, and modernity and its discontents.

Prerequisite: Third-Year Standing or permission of instructor

What to do first

If your class is in Nanaimo : For your first seminar you are to arrive having read, and, if you choose, with a seminar note on Werner Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy , available in the LBST 420 course packet (for sale at the VIU Bookstore) and also on the Moodle site. Also, view the brief, animated video on the Moodle site (in the LBST 410/420 panel) called "Dr Quantum."

If your class is in Courtenay : For your first seminar you are to arrive having read, and, if you choose, with a seminar note on, Leon Kass from Toward a More Natural Science , and Richard Dawkins, from The Blind Watchmaker, both available in the LBST 420 course packet and on the Moodle site.

If you are new to Liberal Studies read the online Program Overview , which contains crucial information about the purposes and methods of the Liberal Studies BA program. Read also the important Advice on Seminar Participation .  

Weekly Timetable  

Class type





Thu 10:30 am - 12:30 pm

David Livingstone or Guest

VIU B355/R203

Seminar S12N01

Tue, Thu 1 - 2:30 pm

David Livingstone

VIU B355/R109

Seminar S12X01

Thu 6:30 - 9:30 pm

David Livingstone

NIC-Discovery 204

Instructor's Office Hours  






David Livingstone

Tues and Wed: 10-11 am




Attendance Expectations

Please note: because of the participatory nature of Liberal Studies courses, it is Department policy that attendance is required at all classes. Failure to attend regularly will have a significant negative impact on your mark for participation.

You are required to attend:

1) all lectures on Thursday mornings (lectures will be recorded for Courtenay);
2) your seminar group (twice per week in Nanaimo , Thursdays in Courtenay);
3) the Spring Conference (explained below).

The lectures, held on Thursday mornings in Nanaimo, serve several purposes: to initiate discussion and debate around issues raised by the texts; to provide occasional background or contextual information that will make reading and discussing the texts easier; and, occasionally, to show how issues arising from the text are connected to issues in the modern world or to issues arising out of texts we have looked at before. The lectures will sometimes be given by invited guests.

Seminars have an entirely different purpose: to provide you with the opportunity to develop and deepen your own understanding of the text and to consider thoughtful alternatives to your own interpretations. Active engagement is the key to successful learning, and seminars are the most important venue for engagement. See the detailed explanation available online and under "Seminar Participation" below. Because the focus is on full participation in the discussion, the Liberal Studies Department prohibits audio- or video-taping of seminars, except in cases where this is a required accommodation. Students with documented disabilities requiring academic and/or exam accommodation should contact Accessibility Services, Building 200, or call 250.740.6446.


The following list indicates the required reading. It is important that you attempt to obtain the exact editions specified. This is largely because translations differ in significant ways, but is also for ease of reference during seminars and in written work. Unless otherwise specified, all books are available for purchase at the VIU Bookstore , Nanaimo campus.


Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents (Penguin)

Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time (Scribner)

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Vintage Books)

John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

Leo Strauss, An Introduction to Political Philosophy:Ten Essays (Wayne State University Press)

Livingstone, LBST 420 Custom Coursepack (edited collection of readings)

Two documents by Winston Churchill are on the Moodle site. These will be required readings in the week we are discussing Churchill.

Additional readings may be posted to Moodle. You will be advised by your instructor about these.

Assignment Grades:

Each seminar essay is worth 30%; seminar notes (10 required) are worth a total of 10%; the conference paper presentation is worth 5% and seminar participation is worth 25%.

For further details, see explanations following the detailed schedules below.

Schedule of Topics:

Nanaimo topics

Week of

Courtenay topics

1.Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy


January 3rd

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker , Leon Kass, Toward a More Natural Science

3. Heidegger, "Essay Concerning Technology"

January 10

Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy

4. Various: "Fascism, Nazism, Winston Churchill's war speeches"


January 17

Heidegger, "Essay Concerning Technology"

5. T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Janina Hornosty

January 24

Various, "Fascism, Nazidom, Churchill"

6. Hemingway, In Our Time

Steve Lane

January 31

T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

7. Modern Music: Arthur Schoenberg

John Black

February 7

Hemingway, In Our Time

8. Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities

Janice Porteous

February 14

Modern Music: Arthur Schoenberg


Reading Week

February 21

Reading Week

9. Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Mark Blackell


February 28

Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities

Pope John Paul II, "Fides et Ratio"

Richard Dunstan


March 6

Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Leo Strauss, An Introduction to Political Philosophy


March 13

Pope John Paul II, "Fides et Ratio"

Richard Rorty, "Contingency, Irony, Solidarity"; Peter Lawler, "Rorty's America," "Stuck with Virtue"


March 20

Leo Strauss, An Introduction to Political Philosophy

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker , Leon Kass, Toward a More Natural Science


March 27

Richard Rorty, "Contingency, Irony, Solidarity;" Peter Lawler, "Rorty's America," "Stuck with Virtue"

Spring Conference

April 3

Spring Conference







Students will write two essays (at least one before the mid-semester study week). Length 1500 words (5-6 pages double-spaced, 12-point font). 

First Draft: Each of the two essays will focus closely upon one of the readings to be discussed in the seminar. There is a procedure to follow:

* Select material to write on: at the first or second seminar, choose two of the weekly readings on which you would like to write. You are required to choose one reading assigned for a seminar before the mid-term Study Week, and one assigned for a seminar after it.

* Choose a question: these will be provided before the essay is due.

* First draft: write the essay and hand it in at the Thursday seminar the week after the one in which the reading you are writing about is discussed. Your seminar-leader will return it to you with comments and a provisional mark, normally a week later.

Second Draft: One week after you receive a provisional grade on an essay (see "ungraded work" above), you will hand in the final draft, along with your provisionally marked first draft . The second draft of your essay will then be given the final mark.

If a student wishes to have feedback on the first draft of the second essay , it must be handed in by March 15th at the latest.

Please note that, at the end-of-term LBST Spring Conference, students who are not presenting LBST 400 thesis papers will choose one of their seminar essays to present.

Conference presentation: You will give a presentation on one of your seminar essays at the Liberal Studies Spring Conference held from April 3-5 at the Nanaimo Campus. The presentation, lasting approximately 10 minutes and worth 5% of your total grade, should be a condensed version of your paper.

General Writing Requirements:

Word-Processing: All written work, including seminar notes, should be typed or prepared on a word processor, double spaced on standard paper (8.5" x 11"), near letter quality or better.

Plagiarism: You should be familiar with the policy on academic misconduct outlined in the Vancouver Island University Calendar and take care to avoid such practices. You will incur severe penalties for intellectual dishonesty: a plagiarized paper will receive a mark of zero with no opportunity to make up the assignment. A second occurrence may result in a mark of F for the course. Further penalties are possible. See VIU's Student Academic Code of Conduct .

Photocopying: You should always retain a photocopy of any written assignment you hand in. This will insure against loss and enable you to ask for a mark review if this is necessary. Photocopy services are available in the Library.

Seminar Notes:

Seminar notes (200-300 words each) are due at the Tuesday seminars (Thursday seminars for Courtenay students). The point of writing seminar notes is to prepare you for, and enhance your contribution to, seminar discussion; late seminar notes will not be accepted, unless you have a valid reason for missing the seminar in which the material was discussed. In your seminar notes you should explore a specific issue or ask a question about some significant point with respect to the text, a question that takes you into the text rather than away from it, and one that addresses interpretive issues rather than matters of fact or context which cannot be answered by reading the text. Focus on a question or topic arising out of the study material which you think it would be interesting and fruitful for the seminar to discuss. "Interesting" implies that the question is likely to promote serious intellectual discussion - the answer must not be obvious; "fruitful" implies that it must be possible to answer the question given the resources of the seminar - the answer must not be beyond the seminar's reach. Please note that factual questions about the text, the author or their background normally fail to qualify on both counts. Although it must be written in complete sentences, the note is not an essay; it need not have a thesis statement, conventionally designed paragraphs, and so on. Unlike polished essays, seminar notes can be speculative and can take intellectual risks. In marking the notes, which in all are worth 10% of your grade for the course, the professors will be looking for evidence of engagement with the text, as well as attentive reading and thoughtful consideration. You may find, also, that your note can suggest an interesting topic for the rest of the class to explore in seminar discussion. You have to hand in ten seminar notes during the semester.

Seminar Participation:

Seminar participation is a fundamental component in all Liberal Studies courses. It is therefore important that you come to every class, that you have prepared yourself for every class and that you contribute to class discussion and activities. Valid reasons for missing a seminar include such things as illness, emergency child-care demands, and car break-down en route to class. Valid reasons for missing seminar do not include having to work on assignments, the need to carry out a part-time job, having to be out of town for a vacation, etc. That is, under normal circumstances, only an unforeseen emergency which actually prevents you from attending class will offer you a valid reason for not being there. Please consult with your instructor if, for any reason, you anticipate a number of absences from seminar.

The criteria for effective seminar participation include the following:

* preparation for the seminar (Did the student have the book? Did the student read the text, bring the text to class and come to the seminar prepared to participate fully?)

* quality of the participant's contributions to the discussion (Did the student contribute some intelligent questions, answers, doubts about matters arising in the discussion? Were the remarks relevant? Did any of the remarks challenge the participants in useful ways?)

* nature of the participant's interaction with others (Did the student listen well? Did he/she encourage others to speak up? Did he/she ask useful questions or offer helpful follow-up remarks to keep the flow of the conversation polite and relevant?)

* some negative points: excessive digressions; verbal or non-verbal hostility, indifference, boredom, ridicule; over-eagerness to contribute; dominating the discussion; refusal to put any views on the table.

The following scale gives a guide to the factors the seminar leader will consider in evaluating seminar participation, as well as a rough picture of their impact on your mark:

F: Student is physically absent without a valid reason; the mark in this case will count as zero.

F-D: Student is physically present, but otherwise quite absent;

C-: Student provides some potentially useful participation, but is very poorly prepared or insensitive or uncooperative in the group setting;

C: Student is present, evidently prepared and interested, but offers quite limited verbal contributions to the discussion;

C+ to B-: Student is present, well prepared, and offers some useful comments, some of which might be more incisive or more relevant or further developed

B to B+: Student is present, very well prepared, maintains a good relationship with the others (i.e., contributes actively to the dynamics of the seminar), and offers useful comments in a constructive way;

A range: Student makes a major contribution and not just to the understanding of the material but to the social dynamics of the session, a contribution which would be difficult to imagine being any better.

Web Resources:

There are a number of valuable and helpful web resources for your use in LBST 420 :

The Liberal Studies Homepage : this departmental page contains a vast amount of information about the theory and practice of Liberal Studies courses, and all the links you will need to other resources. Please explore it at your leisure: . Take especial note of the Program Info and Coursework pages.

Helpful advice on essay writing and other aspects of study is available at "johnstonia" - the homepage of Ian Johnston, one of the founding professors of Liberal Studies and now a Research Associate in the Liberal Studies Department. To reach this instructional material, go to and follow the links to "General Study Materials." We recommend especially Essays and Arguments and Guide to the Marking of Written Assignments .

An excellent source of biographical and bibliographical information about the figures you will encounter in the course is the Great Books Homepage, created by Russell McNeil, also one of the founding professors in Liberal Studies and now a Research Associate: .

There is a Facebook group created by the Liberal Studies Club for all those involved in Liberal Studies: it is called VIU Liberal Studies and is listed under Student Groups - General. Use it to stay in touch with other students, past and present. The Liberal Studies Club is a student-run organisation which aims to help students get the most out of their experience in the program.

University Grading Scale:

Percentage (%)

Letter Grade

Grade Point