The music of Beethoven's last years has always been received as puzzling and enigmatic. Its advocates have claimed it to be a pinnacle of Western art, unrivalled in its profundity. Others have found it deeply disturbing in the way it alternates synthesis and fragmentation, transcendence and parody. The course will explore these issues along with the music's recption history, both compositional and critical. Late Beethoven has been understood by modern commentators to speak directly of what may be the central philosophical problem of our modern age: the questionable validity of the ideals of Western bourgeois Humanism after the catastrophes of the mid twentieth century.