Honors | Ideas & Experience - 1
H211 | 6678 | Julia Bondanella
H211 acquaints you with the ideals and modes of thought in early
Western culture from classical antiquity and Biblical times to the
Renaissance. At the heart of our discussions are writers who have
offered powerful critiques of Western values and who have influenced
the way we think about ourselves and our world. Our discussions will
focus on some of the basic questions human beings have always asked
about life in this world and beyond.
What does it mean to be a human being in the world?
What is the role of a single human being in this life? Of male and
What is the relationship between our emotions and our intelligence?
What is the significance of our relationship to other human beings?
What should define our relationship to the natural world? Can
nature furnish standards for human behavior? Must values come from
an external authority?
What is the nature and significance of love?
What does it mean to be good or wicked? How should a human life be
How can we know if our definitions of good and evil are right?
What should a leader be like?
What is a hero or heroine? What kind of people should we admire?
What is the role of art and music in our lives? Is there an
aesthetic dimension to intelligence?
Do we have special responsibilities as individuals? As members of a
society? To whom or to what?
How can we educate people so that they develop good values and
become productive citizens, if that is a goal?
This course provides more than a brief introduction to some basic
texts and questions in Western literature, though this is uniquely
important to an educated person. It can--if you let it--make you
think about how and why Western values have changed over time–and
how they have remained the same. It can help you learn how you have
come to hold the views which govern your behavior and your choices.
It offers you different models of thinking and of behavior. Our aim
this semester will be to examine and analyze some of our basic
assumptions about individualism, love, leadership, heroism, and
goodness. We will also learn something about the study of the
history of ideas.
Essential to achieving this aim will be the regular practice of
communicating with each other through writing, discussing, and even
working in small groups. The reading in this seminar will help you
continue to improve your ability to read challenging texts and
understand complex issues; the writing assignments will enable you
to practice your analytic skills and explore ways of improving your
writing and thinking; 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 tolerant fashion; Communicating your
ideas and confronting the views of others in a reasonable way is
essential to a thriving democracy of rights and ideas.
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 be able to gain an appreciation of the
interconnectedness of your tradition--the way artists and writers
have learned from and interacted with their predecessors as well as
the significance of the past in our own lives and thinking. You
should become aware of what it has meant to be an original thinker
or writer (up until this century).
Reading assignments will be made each class period and will include
entire texts or significant portions of complete texts. All the
texts below are in paperback.
Note: This list is subject to small changes. You should have read
Genesis 1-3 from a Bible, either the Revised Standard Version or the
King James for the first class. The King James Version or the
Revised Standard Version of the Bible is preferred. You can find
the RSV at the following url:
Grene & Lattimore, trans., Greek Tragedies, Vol. 1, University of
Chicago Press, Phoenix (ISBN: 0226307905)
Plato, The Republic (trans. Waterfield), Oxford Univ. Press (ISBN:
Virgil, The Aeneid (trans. Fitzgerald), Random House, Vintage
Dante, Inferno (trans. Hollander & Hollander), Anchor Books (ISBN:
Boccaccio, The Decameron (trans. Musa & P. Bondanella), New American
Library, Mentor (ISBN: 0451627466)
Machiavelli, The Prince (eds. & trans. P. Bondanella & Musa), Oxford
Univ. Press (ISBN: 0192833979)
Shakespeare, All’s Well That EndsWell (ed. C. McEachern), The
Pelican Shakespeare(Penguin) ISBN: 0-14-071460-X
Writing and Oral Exercises: Grading
This is an intensive writing course. You need to enroll in
W333. You will write several brief commentaries on the readings.
This writing can help you learn how to formulate and organize
arguments and to prepare for participation in class discussions.
You will also write 3—4 analytical essays of 4—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 always rewrite your
papers, if you are not satisfied with the results. You must submit
essays in hard copy (no e-mail, except in emergencies). I am
willing to look at rough drafts, preferably in hard copy. You are
required to rewrite at least one essay. Your grade will be based
both on your participation in class discussion and on your written
work. You receive a separate grade for intensive writing of S/F.
In grading, I take improvement into consideration! There are no
written examinations in the course. If you have any questions,
please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org