Honors | Ideas & Experience - Ancient
H211 | 9198 | J. 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 will be 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 and 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
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 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 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; the electronic discussion gives you still another mode of
communicating your ideas and confronting the views of others in a
reasonable way, 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. Also, you should have
read Genesis 1-3 from a Bible, either the Revised Standard Version or
the King James for the first class.
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 (ISBN:
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)
Montaigne, The Essays (trans. M. A. Screech), Viking Penguin (ISBN:
Cellini, My Life (trans. Bondanella & Bondanella), Oxford Univ. Press
Shakespeare, The Tempest (ed. S. Orgel), Oxford Univ. Press (ISBN:
Writing and Oral Exercises: Grading
This is an intensive writing course. You will write a brief
commentary on each work we read (1-2 pages). You may submit them by
e-mail. 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 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 email@example.com.