Honors | Ideas & Experience - Ancient
H211 | 0004 | Bondanella
1:00-2:15P TR BH 332
This section is an Intensive Writing course and requires
registration in COAS W333.
General Aims of the Course:
H211 acquaints you with the important issues and trends in early
Western culture from classical antiquity and Biblical times to the
Renaissance. At the heart of class discussions are writers who have
offered powerful critiques of Western modes of thinking and doing
and who have influenced the way we evaluate ourselves and our world.
We will talk about some of the basic questions human beings have
always asked about life in this world and beyond.
--How did we get here? What does it mean to be a human being?
--Are human beings born with certain rights or privileges?
--What is our relationship to the rest of creation?
--What can we really know for certain? How can we know it?
--What does it mean to be good or wicked? How should a human life be
--How should a society be organized? According to what principles or
--What is the role of a single human being in this life? Of male and
--Do we have special responsibilities? To whom or to what?
Hopefully the course will provide you with something more than a
brief introduction to the contents of Western literature, though
this is uniquely important to an educated person. It can--if you let
it--challenge you to think about why Western values have changed
over time, and about how you have come to hold the views that govern
your behavior. Perhaps you will gain some insight into how reading
and discussing great works from the past can help make sense of the
And finally, the course is also designed to give you practice in
developing the important skills of communication through reading,
writing, discussing, and working in small groups. The reading in
this seminar will help you continue to improve your ability to read
and understand complex issues; the writing assignments will enable
you to practice your writing and explore ways of improving it; the
class discussions will help you learn to articulate your ideas in
front of other people and to evaluate diverse points of view in a
Each of the following texts expresses a particular vision of human
life and human possibilities as well as a specific approach to human
problems; each text also relates in some significant ways to others
being read. You will see the interconnectedness of your tradition
the way artists and writers have learned from and interacted with
their predecessors. Reading assignments will be made each class
period and will include entire texts or significant portions of
1.)Bible, Genesis 1-3, any text you wish to use, except the prose
versions (I recommend the Revised Standard Version, or, for its
extraordinary poetry, the King James version.)
2.)Euripides, Hippolytus in Greek Tragedies, Vol. 1 (eds. Grene &
Lattimore), University of Chicago.
3.)Plato, The Republic (trans. Sterling & Scott), Norton
4.)Plato, Symposium (edition to be announced)
5.)Augustine, confessions (trans. Pine-Coffin), Penguin
6.)Boccaccio, the Decameron (trans. Musa & P. Bondanella), New
American Library Mentor)
7.)Machiavelli, The Portable Machiavelli (eds. Trans. P. Bondanella
& Musa), Penguin
8.)Cellini, Autobiography, Penguin
9.)Virgil, The Aeneid (trans. Fitzgerald), Random House (Vintage)
The class will meet twice a week. Attendance is uniquely important
in a seminar. If you cannot attend class, be sure to let me know
why. If you are having problems, tell me, so that I can try to help
you. Make a habit of reading every day, jotting down major points
and issues in the top margin of your book, or keep a record of your
readings in a journal. Some people begin to keep regular journals in
this class as a way to improve their writing and to keep track of
their intellectual experiences. Learn how to distinguish between the
writer's main ideas and the ideas that most interest you. I expect
you to come to class prepared to participate to the best of your
ability. I expect to see improvement during the course of the
Writing and Oral Exercises:
Writing assignments have two basic goals: to help you improve your
writing by making you more comfortable with the task of writing, and
to help you clarify your ideas. You will do two different kinds of
writing, the less formal commentaries written in class and the
formula essays in which I will hold you to higher standards of
clarity, grace, and organization. You will have the option of
rewriting any of the written work if you are not satisfied with your
Commentaries. You will write a brief commentary on each of the texts
in class (about a paragraph). This writing should help you learn how
to formulate and write about topics in a situation more like that of
an essay exam. It should also help you prepare to participate in
class discussions. Note that these are not exams!
Essays. You will write 3-4 analytical essays of 3-5 pages in length
during the semester. We may spend some time in class discussing how
to improve your writing; and I will go over essays with you
individually, as necessary. Again, you may rewrite your papers if
you are not satisfied with the results.
Oral Exercises. You will have at least two oral exercises--one may
be to prepare some topic and present it in class, and the other will
be a discussion with me the last week in November about the
materials you have read and studied.
You will be graded upon your writing, your participation in class
discussions, the oral exercises, and your efforts to improve. More
weight will be given to the formal essays. There are no written
examinations in this course. Grades are not "curved," if you can
earn an "A," you will receive an "A."