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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds I’d like to start with a quote, because in his famous book, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, a quote borrowed from Karl Marx, the American philosopher Marshall Berman writes the following on modernity. And I started with the quote. “To be modern is to experience personal and social life as a maelstrom to fight one’s world and oneself, and perpetual disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction. To be part of the universe in which all that is solid melts into air.” So I’d like to start with Konstatin Mierau. You are an assistant professor in the literature, Spanish literature to be more precise. Could you relate to his reading of the modern condition?

Skip to 0 minutes and 52 seconds Or would you say that there are other different minimum definitions that relate to our conceptions of modernity? If we take up notions as disintegration and renewal, trouble and anguish, ambiguity and contradiction, this reverts back to this definition of early modernity and modernity that we discussed earlier, in which we saw the roots of modernity and the crisis of knowledge produced by such discoveries as the discoveries of the American. That literature is a place where possible future worlds are constructed, and possible future worlds are judged next to each other. I think one of the defining features of modernity is the idea of newness, of renewal, of innovation. A focus on something new that is good. Innovation as a positive force.

Skip to 1 minute and 42 seconds What we have to see is that modernity is an ongoing project. It’s an ongoing process. And this raises a lot of questions about where this project is going, where we are taking it, and in which ways it is being configurated and reconfigured in different stages of history. I think one of the defining features of modernity, if you look at technological advancements of developments in various fields in the sciences, basically, everything that is not humanity, is that things speeds up enormously, especially in the 19th century onwards. But towards the 20th century, everything gets faster and bigger. What is not modern about Europe? What are the anti-modern movements within Europe?

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds And how much do we still, or do we tend to look for ways of identifying ourselves that precede European identities? And what I find very important in regards to connections or interconnections with literature is not only the one-way relationship of literature mirroring aspects like this, but also the reciprocity. This is what I will speak about further when I make my contribution on the novel as a typical modern form of literature. Well, I think one of the things that contemporary history shows us is that it’s very hard to define modernity as one thing. And I think any attempt to create some sort of black and white definition of what is and what is not modernity becomes very challenging.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds And that’s really clear in my research, and what I’ll talk about later in the week, which is about the environmental movement. And I think one of the most common reactions to environmental activism, or to the articulation of environmental ideas is the idea that environmentalists are by definition, somehow anti-modern or want to return to the past. But I think with studying the environmental movement, you can see that that’s not actually the goal of most environmentalists, that they don’t desire to live in the Middle Ages or something like that. They’re very happy being part of modernity and interested in progress and technology in all sorts of different ways.

Skip to 4 minutes and 0 seconds But that they think about how to use those things differently than we might typically associate with modernity. Modernity is about this feeling of what it means to be modern is about insecurities, is about the fluent. The renewal is about ambiguities. But I think what we also have to see is that modernity has constructed as the other part of this dialect, so to say that is being built into modernity, has constructed securities as no other historical era before. Football, which many of you are familiar with, is this something that brings together nations, entire continents. There’s a world cup. And on the other hand, we get this tribal violence, where a bunch of Dutch hooligans started demolishing the Trevi fountain in Italy.

Skip to 4 minutes and 50 seconds So we get both sides, both the modern and the anti-modern and the tribal in one cultural phenomenon. Where is the normal in here? I guess how far are hooligans who beat up other hooligans– wherever the European continent less modern than those who are peacefully loving each other. But what you do is you identify the modern with the nice stuff, and the non-modern or the anti-modern with the ugly stuff. There’s still something modern in the sense of trying to integrate all these identities into one common identity. That would be the overaching Europe cup or world cup.

Skip to 5 minutes and 29 seconds And looking for this very localised place-based identity that precedes the modern, in the sense that it doesn’t take into account this notion of change as something inherent to the modern. But if you have Dutch hooligans who beat up Italian hooligans because their national football team’s playing against each other, both are based on a modern notion of nationalism. The national identity. And that is why they would beat each other up. And I’m asking myself whether there’s anything right now in Europe that can be outside of modernity, because modernity is a sort of condition that I see now everywhere.

Key concepts of modernity

In this panel discussion, this week’s educators, chaired by Dr Stefan Couperus, sit down to discuss some of the key terms of modernity.

Previously, Dr Konstantin Mierau introduced us to the crisis of knowledge that was the result of the discovery of the Americas in 1492. Dr Mierau and his colleagues take this as a starting point to analyse what is characteristic for modernity.

One of the key questions they debated in their admittedly much longer discussions was this: if we say some things are ‘anti-modern’, aren’t those actually, in some way, also modern? After all, calling football hooliganism tribalistic is a very modern way of thinking!

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