Honors | Ideas and Experience - Ancient
H211 | 0001 | G. Maiorino
2:30-3:45pm TR WH 116
This section is an Intensive Writing course and requires registration
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 tolerant
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 Library Mentor)
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 semester.
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
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."