Western Humanities 220 (11)

Western Humanities 220 (19)
Fall Semester 2007, MWF 11:30-12:40
Milne 105
Instructor: Dr. Jane Fowler Morse
Office: South Hall 221C
Office Phone: 245-5381
Home Phone: 243-3046 (but please do not call after 9:00 PM)
Office Hours: Wednesday and Friday 3-4:30 (note: I may have meetings called during some of
these hours), or by appointment.
Email: jfmorse@geneseo.edu (I answer emails after 5 PM. Please put the words Humn 220 in the
subject line of your email (you may add other words after these).
Western Humanities will acquaint students with some classics of western thought that grapple
with general issues involved in living a good human life. We will examine ethical principles that
inform individual choice, political theories that enable human beings to achieve a fulfilling life
as members of a community, and ideas concerning human beings’ place in the cosmos. We will
place these ideas in their historical context.
The course consists of a number of primary source readings (see schedule of readings) and a
secondary source for background by Marvin Perry, Western Civilization: A Brief History, Vol. 1
(see schedule of readings for related background chapters in Perry). I expect you to do the
background reading in preparation for each primary text and to understand the historical context
of each reading. I expect you to come to class with the readings prepared, ready to participate in
a lively and informed discussion of important issues raised by the texts. Bring your book for the
current reading to class, since you will be required to refer to pages in the text during
discussions. Your participation grade will be based on my assessment of your preparation and
participation in these discussions.
Since the goal of this course is for you to examine ideas important to every human being, I will
create opportunities for you to conduct discussions with your peers of the issues raised by the
primary texts. To do so well, you need to undertake a twofold task. First, you need to know what
the author of the text in question says and what that means. Second, to evaluate the significance
of the text, you need to ask yourself what I call the “so-what” question, which come in different
forms: “ So, what difference did this idea make? What is its significance for human life? How
did these ideas affect western civilization? What difference do they make to the way we think of
our place in the grand scheme of things?” Either part of the twofold task is incomplete without
the other. On the one hand, merely knowing what the author says does not allow ideas to have an
impact on your life. On the other hand, discussing the significance of ideas without having a
good grasp of what those ideas are trivializes them. To be ready for discussion, read the week’s
assignments before the week begins. The historical background is also important because all
writings are influenced by the context in which their authors lived. To facilitate discussion, bring
the book under discussion with you to class each day. I will frequently ask you to look at specific
passages in class.
Although I do not assign the introductions and other materials in the texts specifically, I expect
you to read them! They are often very helpful in comprehending the material.
Although the course is Western Humanities, with readings drawn from the Western intellectual
tradition, I invite you to think of possible parallels and oppositions drawn from other cultures.
We will think about what is universal about the human experience and what is customary in
different traditions, as far as we are able within the confines of the class.
You will write two essays (I will assign three topics of which you choose two) during the course
of the semester. Late papers will not be accepted without a prior agreement with me regarding
the circumstances. I will be happy to consult with you on your paper if you make an appointment
to go over a solidly written draft earlier than four days before your paper is due (depending on
availability of office hours). There will be two hour exams and a final examination. All
examinations will be essay exams. I may give unannounced quizzes to keep you on your toes, so
please come to class prepared! There will be no make-ups for such quizzes. I will post eight
surveys on the internet to check your comprehension of the background material, of which you
are required to do five. These will only remain open until the end of the week they are due. They
will not be graded per se, but completion will count towards your participation grade. In order to
accommodate the needs the class, we may deviate from the announced syllabus from time to
time. I have made assignments by the week rather than by the class period to reflect this
flexibility. Your class attendance is important: first, to absorb and discuss the materials; second,
to be sure you know the current topics and assignments; third, to do homework or group work
assignments from time to time, which counts towards class participation on your grade; and
finally, to participate.
Required Texts:
(Note: It will be important to you to have the right translation and the same pagination as other
class members! Be sure to purchase the correct edition. I have added dates of the original text in
parentheses to give you a sense of the chronology of the readings.)
Primary Texts:
The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version. Meridian Books: New York, 1974. (dates of books
vary widely)
The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet XI, The Story of the Flood, available online at
http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/ for background on Gilgamesh see
http://novaonline.nv.cc.va.us/eli/eng251/gilgameshstudy.htm The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated
by N.K. Sandars is also available from Penguin Classics, 1960. The Epic was widely known
during the third millennium BC, 3000-2000 BCE.
Aeschylus. The Oresteia, translated by Paul Roche. Meridian Books: New York, 1962. (458
Plato. Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Phaedo, translated by G.M.A. Grube.
Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: Indianapolis, Indiana, 1981. (Socrates’ death: 399 BCE) (We
will read three (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito) of these. They are also available on line at
Aristotle. The Nichomachean Ethics. Book I, Chapter 1-7; Book II, Chapters 1-6; Book III,
Chapters 1-5. Excerpted version available in the Outbox and full version on line at:
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html (Aristotle, 384-322 BCE)
Thucydides. On Justice, Power, and Human Nature: Selections from the History of the
Peloponnesian War, translated by Paul Woodruff. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.:
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1993. (Thucydides, b.424, d.404 BCE)
Juvenal. The Satires of Juvenal, translated by Rolfe Humphries. Indiana University Press,
Bloomington, 1958. (Juvenal b.55 AD, d.138 AD)
Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy, translated by Richard Green. Macmillan, Library of
Liberal Arts: New York, 1962. Also available online at
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/jod/boethius/boethius.html (Boethius b. c. 480, d. c. 425v or 526) The
Consolation was written c. 524 AD)
Poems of Rumi, “Be Lost in the Call,” “Look! This is Love,” “Mystic Ode 833,” “I died from
minerality,” (and others of your choice) available on line at
http://www.khamush.com/poems.html (Rumi b.1207, d. 1273); For background on Rumi, see
More. Utopia, translated by Clarence H. Miller. Yale University Press, New Haven and London,
2002. (originally published 1516)
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Norton Critical Edition. WW Norton & Co., 2004
(originally published 1623)
Cesaire, Aime, A Tempest, Translated by Richard Miller. TGG Translations: New York, 2002.
(originally published 1969)
Required Secondary Text:
Perry, Marvin. Western Civilization: A Brief History. Volume I To 1879. Fifth Edition.
Houghton Mifflin: Boston and New York, 2004. (Older editions will do, but you will be
responsible for differences.) (I leave two copies of the fourth edition outside my office for your
Table of Readings and due dates for Hum 220, Fall 2006
For background and surveys on Weeks 1-8 read Perry, Chapter 3
Week One, Aug. 27-31
Introduction to
The Agamemnon
Humanities; Aeschylus,
The Oresteia
Monday, September 3, Labor Day No Classes
Week Two, Sept. 5-7
Aeschylus (cont.)
The Libation Bearers, The
Week Three, Sept. 10-14
Plato, Five Dialogues
The Euthyphro
Week Four, Sept. 17-21
Plato (cont.)
The Apology; The Crito
Week Five, Sept. 24-28
Aristotle, Nicomachean
Nicomachean Ethics, Books
Ethics (excepts posted in
I, II, and III
Week Six, Oct. 1-5
Thucydides On Justice,
Aristotle, Book III;
Power, and Human Nature Thucydides, Chapters 1, 2,
and 3
Fall Break, October 8-9, (No classes Monday and Tuesday)
First Hour Exam (Covers weeks 1-6) Wednesday, Oct. 10, Bring Blue Books and pens
Week Seven, Oct. 10-12
Chapters 4-6
Week Eight, Oct.15-19
Thucydides (cont.)
Chapters 7, 8
Paper Topic 1 due in my office, Friday, Oct. 19, by 5 PM
For background and surveys on Week 9, read Perry, Chapters 1, 2
Week Nine, Oct. 22-26
The Bible (Old Testament Genesis, Exodus 19-24;
selections); The
Hosea, Amos, and Jonah;
Gilgamesh Epic
Gilgamesh, Tablet XI,
selections online
For background and surveys on week 10, read Perry, Chapter 4
Week Ten, Oct 29- Nov. 2
The Satires of Juvenal
For background and surveys on Week 11, read Perry, Chapter 5
Week Eleven, Nov. 5-9
The Bible (New Testament The Gospel according to
Mark; Romans
Second Hour Exam (Covers weeks 7-11) Friday, Nov. 9, Bring Blue Books and pens
Paper Topic 2 due at my office Monday, Nov. 12, by 5 PM
Week Twelve, Nov. 12-16
The Consolation of
For background and surveys on Weeks 12, 13 read Perry Chapters, 6, 7
Week Thirteen, Nov. 19
Rumi; read More over
Selected Poems; Utopia
Thanksgiving Break, Nov. 21-25 (No classes Wednesday, Thursday, Friday)
For background and surveys on Weeks 14, 15 read Perry, Chapter 8
Week Fourteen, Nov. 26-30
More; Shakespeare
Utopia; The Tempest
Paper Topic 3 due in my office Friday, Nov. 30 by 5 PM
Week Fifteen, Dec. 3-7
Shakespeare, Cesaire
The Tempest; A Tempest
Week Sixteen, Dec. 10
Cesaire (cont.); wrap up
A Tempest
and review
Study Day, December 11
Final Examination: Friday, Dec. 14, 12-3 PM
Grading: Graded components of this course include two essays, two hour exams, class
participation (based on participating in whole class discussion and small group discussion and
quizzes) and a final examination, weighted in the following percentages:
Two papers
Two hour exams
30% (15% each)
30% (15% each)
Scale of final letter grades:
65% and below.
I calculate all grades by a spreadsheet, rounding up from .5 and down from .4 on each
assignment. To calculate final grades, I weight and add percentages and assign letter grades
according to the chart above. Please consult me immediately after receiving each graded
assignment if you wish to discuss the grade. We will frequently be working on discussion
questions in groups in class. If you are not here, or you have not read the assignment, you cannot
participate. Since your participation counts for a hefty 10% of your grade, attendance and
preparation will be important.
You will be responsible for picking up handouts (mostly discussion questions on the readings)
from my outbox. To access outboxes go to http://boxes.geneseo.edu/, then select Education, then
select jfmorse, then select Hum 220. All discussion questions, overheads, assignments, syllabus,
etc. will be loaded into the outbox. Whenever I add something new to the outbox, I will inform
you by email. Surveys on background material will be posted prior to the week whose readings
they accompany and closed at the end of that week or period. There will be one survey for each
assigned Chapter in Perry. It is your responsibility to do them in a timely fashion.
Be careful not to commit plagiarism in your papers; I check. For a definition of plagiarism, see
the Undergraduate Bulletin at
http://bulletin.geneseo.edu/first/?pg=01_Student_Affairs_policies.html. If you are uncertain
whether your paper is properly cited, please see me with an early draft at least three days before
the paper is due. If your paper is plagiarized, I will follow college policy described in the above
section of the Bulletin.