Honors | Ideas and Experience -- Ancient
H211 | 0005 | Bondanella
11:15A-12:30P TR BH 215
This section is an Intensive Writing course and requires registration in
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 of
--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 present.
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 tolerant fashion.
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 complete texts.
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
7.) Machiavelli, The Portable Machiavelli (eds. Trans. P. Bondanella &
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 results.
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."