Honors | Ideas and Experience - Ancient
H211 | 0001 | Remak


If you do not feel good about these readings come May, it will be my
fault or yours, not the fault of the authors or texts. For they
represent some of the finest and most provocative thoughts on our
theme in the last two thousand and more years. Our concentration will
be on the careful and, wherever possible, repeated readings of the
texts themselves. We will start with Sophocles' Antigone, Plato's
Symposium, and selections from his Phaidrus. Then we will read the
Book of Ruth from the Old Testament and St. Paul's first Letter to the
Corinthians. We will follow up the existential struggle between flesh
and soul, body and spirit, matter and mind, between as well as within
men and women, in St. Augustine's Confessions, in the love stories of
Abelard and Heloise, and in Gottfried's Tristan. To see western love
tradition in perspective, we will then read one of the medieval
Japanese classics, The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki. From there we
will go to ever more modernist texts: Erasmus' delightful The Wooer
and the maiden, selections from Montaigne's stunning Essays, Madame de
La Fayette's poignantly psychological Princess of Cleves, and Defoe's
picaresque Moll Flancers.

Before every reading I will try to give you brief introductions to the
historical contexts of these writings and the cultures from which they
spring (Greece, Palestine, North Africa, France, Germany, Japan,
Holland, and England). Most of our texts are literary, but some are
not. To help you identify some of the signal issues in these texts, I
will give you, before you tackle the texts, some (I hope) helpful
indications (pointers) about what to look for. Later on, you will be
more on your own.

Our theme reflects a basic experience of everybody's life, our joys
and our griefs. Gender is with us every day, hour, minute, and second
of our existence, and always has been. But the experience also varies
by time, culture, observer -- and gender. We will encounter not only
heroes but heroines, not only male but female authors. But we will
also find, I believe, that human experience binds genders together --
and transcends them.

I will try to give you constant feedback on your reading and
interpretation of our texts, orally and in my comments on the several
essays you will be asked to write, but I will not inhibit free (though
informed) discussion and writing by giving you letter or number grades
until the very end of the semester. This presupposes the kind of
self-motivation and self-discipline we expect of Honors students.

From time to time we will break up into small discussion groups of
three to four students. But each of you will also have a chance, after
the first two or three weeks, to initiate or moderate class discussion
on a work read by all. Such "discussion initiation" should be based on
careful, structured note-taking (but should not consist of reading out
a prepared text, sentence after sentence). However, all of you are
expected to take notes (observations, summaries of textual ideas,
questions) on all your readings whether you are in charge of the
discussion or not. From time to time I may ask to see your notes.
Regular class attendance is absolutely essential. You will be asked to
write four to five or so (approximately three to five page) essays
during the semester. If the seminar responds well, we may be able to
dispense with tests and examinations.

You will learn the sequence of our readings and when approximately we
will start class discussion on them. But I do not like pinning
ourselves down to a rigid day-by-day schedule laid down weeks or
months in advance. Productive discussions will not be artificially
terminated because the advance schedule so demands. The schedule will
have to adjust to our intellectual discoveries, not vice versa. But,
of course, we do not expect to be exhaustive in our discussion of the
texts. Please be sure to get our separate texts in the particular
edition prescribed. In addition, a bound anthology of our shorter
readings is to be purchased at Collegiate Copies, 1430 E. Third Street
(about $4.50). It would be helpful if you could read one or more of
the longer texts studied in the course (Tristan, The Tale of Genji,
Moll Flanders) before the semester starts, but that is not a
requirement.

If you wish to talk to me about the course during the fall semester,
my regular office hours in Ballantine 605 (855-8307 - has voice mail)
are 6:00-7:30 pm Monday/Thursday, 11:00-12:00 on Wednesday, and
4:00-5:00 Friday. Messages may also be left at 855-1553 (undergraduate
secretary, Dept. of Germanic Studies, Ballantine Hall 644). My phone
number is 336-3188 (I do not mind being called there).

Henry H. H. Remak