/ General Education

Cultural Heritage

History, literature and philosophy combine to consider how Western and other cultures, both ancient and modern, have explored the heights and depths of what it is to be human.

The skills central to the disciplines of the humanities — reading, writing, asking good questions, constructing arguments — enable successful participation in the worlds of work, citizenship, church and more. They also open up understanding of how our world got to be what it is, how people have thought about what makes a happy and flourishing life, how people make successful communities, and how to understand yourself and those who are different from you.

Cultural Heritage courses focus on the development of Western and other cultures during the ancient and modern periods. Understanding these cultural inheritances and how they relate to one another is crucial to understanding ourselves and our neighbors, both near and far, and to making good choices about how to live in a globalized world.

CH courses also focus on reading primary texts — texts that were written during the period being studied. Many of these have come to be regarded as classics: works such as Aristotle’s Ethics, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Voltaire’s Candide that represent the best of their time and place, and that generations of readers ever since have found valuable.

How the requirement works

You must include courses in both ancient culture (CH1) and modern culture (CH2) and courses that cover all three disciplines of history, literature and philosophy.

In order to include three disciplines in two courses, Hope offers interdisciplinary Cultural Heritage courses (IDS 171–178) that combine more than one of these disciplines. Interdisciplinary courses also explore how different humanities disciplines can work together toward a richer understanding of fundamental questions and important cultural movements.

IDS 171 (CH1) and IDS 172 (CH2) each include all three disciplines and can thus combine with any other course from the opposite era (CH1 or CH2), either a single-discipline course (such as those offered by the English, history and philosophy departments) or another IDS course.

There are also some two-discipline IDS courses (IDS 173–178, odd numbers for CH1, even numbers for CH2); with these, the companion course must cover the third discipline. IDS 175, for example, is a CH1 course in literature and philosophy, so it needs to be paired with a CH2 course that includes history, such as History 131 or 208 or IDS 172, 174 or 178.

Students may also fulfill the requirement with a combination of three single-discipline courses, one each from English, philosophy and history, two of which must be 4-credit CH1 and CH2 courses; the third may be a 4- or 2-credit course from the third discipline.

For a complete description of the requirement and options for fulfilling it, see the Cultural Heritage section of the catalog.

Spring 2018 CULTURAL HERITAGE COURSES

To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the course schedule.

CH1 courses in all three disciplines

IDS 171: Utopias, Dystopias, and Cities of God, or Society under Extreme Conditions

Would the ideal society have families in it? Could there be an ideal society run by women? What role should wealth have in society? In this class we will look at utopian literature by Plato, Christine de Pizan, Thomas More, and others that answer those questions. Utopia—it is a pun that means both “no-place” and “good-place”; modern dystopias (“bad-place”) have been common in recent fiction like The Hunger Games, but before 1500 many works of utopian literature would be on the best-sellers list. Both utopian and dystopian literature reveal the author’s philosophical beliefs about human nature and the conditions under which it thrives. This literature also often works as satire or criticism of an existing culture, revealing historical facts about how earlier societies were arranged. In this class, we will read these works as literature, historical document, and philosophical text. Reoccurring themes in the class will include human freedom, self-control, and desire; the role of money and property in society; the role of family, love, and private concerns; and the role of law, government, and authority in society. By considering fictional cases that explore extremes scenarios and test the limits of what is possible, these texts lead us to think about the essence of humans and societies. Pushing those same limits in a different way is literature that speculates on divine cities—or communities which include God, or humans who are living eternally, who have no more need for food or other goods, or who have universal love for others. We shall read works by the medieval thinkers St. Augustine, St. Anselm, and Dante to see how these conditions challenge our understanding of what society is.
 
Since these books are of literary, historical, and philosophical significance, this is an interdisciplinary course in English, History, and Philosophy. We will look at their literary significance by exploring questions of genre and writing technique, we will look at their historical significance by placing them in the context of other historical documents, and we will look at their philosophical significance examining their texts for arguments, assumptions that need support, and connections to political or ethical theories. 

IDS 171: Real Life and the Good Life from Classical Times to Christian

We all want what’s good for ourselves and others. But how do we do well in life, “get it”—what it’s all about? And in what ways have different people throughout history seen that—or not? In this course, we will be keeping our eyes on these sorts of questions, especially as they relate to sex and gender, power and slavery, and character development. The readings for this course are in large part classics, texts that have through the ages been regarded as masterpieces that transcend their own times. We will be looking at literature, philosophy, and history as well as some theology; we will be covering these disciplines as they apply to classical Greece and Rome, and then as they apply to the newly forming Christian Church which burgeons into a great religion surviving into the middle ages and the Renaissance—the church survives beyond that, of course, but we stop at the Renaissance in this course. Because the course proceeds chronologically, we can see in a powerful way how later authors build on earlier ones. Something that particularly excites me about the course is the way it illustrates how Christianity, which became the dominant religion in the West, was born in a classical world and how Christians came to incorporate classical learning and culture from ancient Greece and Rome.

IDS 171: Families, Justice, Tragedy

We are individuals, members of families, citizens of a country, and part of the world. What are the relationships between these aspects of our identities? Are families small societies, with their own cultures and laws? Are countries large families, held together by the affections of extended kinship? Do the duties we have to those we love conflict with the duties we have to our country? Do the duties we have to our country conflict with the duties we have to those in other countries? If they do, is there any way to decide how to act, or are we doomed to conflict and tragedy? These are questions we still struggle with today, but we can look to the past for some help in answering them. In this class, we will look at how ancient Greeks attempted to understand the relationship between families and broader society, by examining the history, drama, and philosophy of the period.

IDS 171: Jews, Pagans, and Christians: the Ancient and Medieval Worlds Reconsidered

Christianity grew out of first-century Judaism. Judaism, in turn, had its roots in ancient Mesopotamia. From the heyday of the Roman Empire, when Christians were a small and vulnerable minority, to the “Christian centuries,” when the papacy was strong enough to rival kings, Christianity interacted with the historical and cultural contexts of its day. Christians were shaped and informed by their worlds even as they challenged the status quo. This course takes us on a brief journey of the ancient and medieval worlds and introduce us to the historical, religious, philosophical, and literary roots of the Western tradition. Emphasis will be given to meditative reading (i.e., texts that call for slow reading and contemplation), and we will consider what the ancient texts have to say to us in our day regarding love, greatness, the eternal—in short, what it means to be human.

IDS 171: Freedom, Justice, and the Good Life

This course will focus on 4 specific time periods in history: 5th-century B.C. Greece, 1st-century Rome, beginnings of Islam and its expansion, and Dante's Florence. In each of the historical, philosophical and literary readings, we will be focusing on the themes of freedom, justice and the good life. The last half of the semester will be spent reading the Dante’s complete Divine Comedy and expanding on all of the ideas introduced in the earlier writings.

CH2 courses in all three disciplines

IDS 172: Disability in Modern Societies

In view of current debates about racial and gender identities, the discussion of disability is more urgent than ever. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to answer this overarching question: Why does disability matter to us? Each week, we will survey major themes in disability studies and the history of medicine that push the boundaries of disability as we know it—by drawing upon a range of historical, literary, and philosophical sources, as well as digital archives to explore theories of disease and disability, divinity and deformity in religious thought, monsters in literature, memoirs and memories of disability, disability activism, gender and disability, etc. By comparing disability cultures in a broad global historical context, from the 17th century to the present, we will uncover the roots of the stereotypes and representations of disability in today’s popular media, and make sense of disability as “difference” in productive and constructive ways.

IDS 172: Authority and the Individual

How do you define yourself as an individual? And how do you relate to the many different authorities in your life? When someone (parent, spiritual leader, government authority or dorm resident director) lays down a rule, do you respond positively? Break it as a matter of principle? Toe the line but grumble? Do you react differently to different kinds of authority? When two kinds of authority conflict, how do you respond?

In this course, we will examine how others have seen their relationships to the many authorities in their lives. We'll cover a great range of time and a great variety of kinds of thinking, from Luther's distinctions between spiritual and secular authorities, to Shakespeare's exploring the power held by colonial authorities, to Confucian emphasis on family ties. We'll cover texts from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, from literature, history, and philosophy, from Western and Asian traditions. We will consider texts as they relate to their particular moment in history and as they relate to each other.

Perhaps you'll see yourself in some of these thinkers. Perhaps you won't. Yet whether you agree or disagree with them, digesting what they have said can allow you to examine closely what you think.

IDS 172: Africana Womanism: Origins, Legacies; or, a Literary, Historical, & Philosophical Journey

Students enrolled in Africana Womanism: Origins, Legacies; or, a Literary, Historical, & Philosophical Journey will explore the varied experiences of Africana women across the African Diaspora and understand how such experiences shaped the development of Africana women’s experiences in the West and outside of it. The specific focus of this course will be the literary, historical, and philosophical development of Africana women’s intellectual output over the last 200 years. To avoid the drawbacks of a traditionally linear chronology, student-scholars will learn through a series of carefully crafted thematic units—enslavement and its legacies, medical care, theology, fetishizing the body, and citizenship. Within each unit, however, we will privilege a linear chronology of historical context, literary selections, and philosophical writings.

We begin in the late-eighteenth century Western Europe and the Americas, understanding the emergence of black women’s movement in the United States. From there, we explore the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies, particularly those in the West Indies and the United States, including explorations on female maroons in the West Indies who helped usher in the successful Haitian Revolution. Next, we turn to Black women’s bodies and medical care in France and the United States. Then, we examine contexts of ancient Israel to understand Black women’s fraught relationships with Christian theology and Black theology in West African and American contexts. Following, we explore the “fetishizing” of Black women’s bodies and finally turn our attention to the notion of Africana Women in the United States as both citizens and refugees in the last unit, “Citizenship.”

IDS 172: Challenging Bodies: Disability, Gender, & Culture

From physical and cognitive impairments to mental illness, the category of disability includes a wide array of identities and perspectives. In popular culture, depictions of disability range from sentimental or degrading to provocative and multifaceted. This course will examine concepts such as ableism, normalcy, and accessibility in the context of literature and cultural history, with a focus on dynamic moments of change in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. In particular, we will explore the alliance between Disability Studies and Gender Studies, two fields with much to say about physical embodiment, social stigma, and the struggle for recognition and rights. Thus, we will ask such questions as: In both gender and disability, how do physical differences and social construction combine to shape identities? How have female authors approached the topic of disability? What does a feminist lens reveal about characters with disabilities, from the “madwomen” and virtuous “cripples” of classic literature to contemporary characters such as Marvel Comics’ Oracle and Switched at Birth’s Daphne? We will also examine the historical, legal, medical, and philosophical frameworks that inform how cultural views of bodies change over time and across borders.

CH1 courses in history and literature

IDS 174: When East Meets West: Visualizing China in Transition

This course surveys Chinese history and literature in the 19th and 20th centuries. Forced onto the stage of a modern society by Western imperial powers, China has since traveled a convoluted course of modernization. It experienced war, revolution, and drastic socioeconomic reforms. Conditioned by these upheavals, Chinese cultural producers constantly struggle between tradition and modernity, incorporation of western influences and artistic and political imperatives. The focus of this course, therefore, resides in literary, cultural, and historical contexts.

CH1 courses in literature and philosophy

IDS 175: The Legacy of Athens and Jerusalem

Western culture bears the marks of many influences but perhaps none so enduring and fundamental as the intellectual tradition of ancient Greece and the Judeo-Christian belief systems. Spreading outwards from symbolic centers in Athens and Jerusalem respectively, these traditions shaped Western thought in ways that are still with us. In antiquity Greek thought, which revered human reason as the guide to enlightenment and wellbeing, shaped reflections on ethics, philosophy, and what we would now call the sciences throughout the Western world. Meanwhile, a religious movement originating in Palestine offered a message of hope founded on divine revelation. This movement survived obscurity and persecution until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and thus a guide to belief and practice throughout the west.

This class will begin by examining central writings in both these traditions. From the Greeks, we will study thinkers like Plato, Aristotle, and the stoics. From the Christians, we will look at the gospel writers and early church fathers. But then we will turn to the interaction and confluence of these two, sometimes in tension, as when the Church father Tertullian famously asked “what has Athens to do with Jersusalem?”, and sometimes in synthesis, as when figures like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas wove ideas from Greek philosophy into their own Christian worldview.

CH2 courses in literature and philosophy

IDS 176: Sport, Ethics, and the Modern World (1500-to present)

Sport is (and has always been) central to our daily lives. This course will look at how sport since 1500 shapes our senses of community and ourselves. It will also look at how our senses of community and ourselves has shaped our sport. Two main themes will be central to this course: the nature and value of the human body, and the nature and value of intrinsic and extrinsic motivations in games and sport. How have different thinkers described the role of the human body within our understanding of humanity? And how have different cultures used their bodies in intrinsically and extrinsically meaningful play, games, and sport? And what do the answers to these questions tell us about the value systems of western cultures since 1500? The history of sport shows that even during religious and national holidays we’ve celebrated with sport in order to develop strong bonds of fellowship. By 1896, the year of the first modern Olympic Games, sporting events had become their own holiday during which sport itself became the reason for the event. This shift in the role of sport has broad social implications.

IDS 176: God, Freedom, and Evil

If there is a God, what do you think God would be like? Would there be freedom if God knew everything? Would there be evil if God were omnipotent and omniscient as God is often claimed to be? Is religion just a coping mechanism for human beings? In this course, we’ll look at some of the most important and interesting questions out there. We’ll look at arguments for God’s existence as well as arguments against God’s existence. We’ll also read some great philosophy and literature that will help us explore these questions.

CH1 history courses

History 130: Introduction to Ancient Civilization

See catalog for description.

History 207: Introduction to World History to 1500

See catalog for description.

CH2 history courses

History 131: Introduction to Modern European History

See catalog for description.

History 208: Introduction to World History since 1500

See catalog for description.

CH1 literature courses

English 231: Western World Literature I

Aesop's fables and Homer's tales of war and adventure start you on an odyssey of ancient literature. Frowns and smiles accompany your dramatic responses to Greek tragedies and comedies. Ancient Roman and medieval Italian epics send you on a spiritual journey that also embraces excerpts from the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and the Chinese Tao Te Ching. Chaucer takes you on a pilgrimage with the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath, and Cervantes inaugurates a quest for an impossible dream with Don Quixote. Sappho, Lady Murasaki, Marguerite de Navarre, and Sor Juana de la Cruz go places where few females dare to tread. Petrarch, Michelangelo, Columbus, and Shakespeare lead you through the Renaissance and Reformation and prepare you for the modern world. As you investigate and explore these authors and works, you read and take tests or written test alternatives, write journals and short papers (or a longer research project), and engage in lively discussions about these masterpieces of Western literature in a global context.

CH2 literature courses

English 232—Literature of the Western World II

This version of World Lit II will ask students: to read, with care, several of the many important literary texts of the Neoclassical, Romantic, Realist, and Modern eras in the western world; to discover and appreciate aspects of the developing literary art; and to understand how such texts reflect the ideas and values of their eras and likewise have contributed to our own. The course method will encourage personal connection with the readings and contribution of personal observations during class alongside informal lecture. Students, therefore, should expect to participate frequently during class, at which attendance will be required. Students should expect to do a fair amount of reading, often of rather difficult material, as well as a fair amount of informal and formal writing.

English 234: Modern Global Literatures

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and its depiction of imperial conquest and domination changed the relationship between western literature and other literatures in English, especially those of former British colonies, forever. In its encounter with other cultures, a body of work and criticism emerges that perceives and evidently critiques traditional societies through the discourse of colonial domination and control.

This course would focus on how former colonized societies from Sub-Saharan Africa to South Asia, the Caribbean and South America react to this discourse of colonization and their attempts at de-colonization and promoting their political and cultural independence. In the process, this form of literature would “write back to the center” by addressing issues as destruction of indigenous cultures, representation of otherness, identity, alterity, and gender.

Thus, in this course, we would cover a considerable period of growth and development of Global Literatures from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy. Within this historical framework, we would trace the impact of westernization on it the literature, and its reconfiguration of colonial perceptions of indigenous societies in the process of writing back to empire.

CH1 philosophy courses

Philosophy 230: Ancient Philosophy

See catalog for description.

Philosophy 237: World Philosophies I

See catalog for description.

CH2 philosophy courses

Philosophy 232: Modern Philosophy

See catalog for description.

Fall 2017 Cultural Heritage courses

To see course details, including dates, times and professors, please use the course schedule.

CH1 courses in all three disciplines

IDS 171: Families, Justice, Tragedy
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
We are individuals, members of families, citizens of a country and part of the world. What are the relationships between these aspects of our identities? Are families small societies, with their own cultures and laws? Are countries large families, held together by the affections of extended kinship? Do the duties we have to those we love conflict with the duties we have to our country? Do the duties we have to our country conflict with the duties we have to those in other countries? If they do, is there any way to decide how to act, or are we doomed to conflict and tragedy? These are questions we still struggle with today, but we can look to the past for some help in answering them. In this class, we will look at how ancient Greeks attempted to understand the relationship between families and broader society, by examining the history, drama and philosophy of the period.

IDS 171: Romans, Christians and Barbarians: Western Culture as Synthesis
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
History is messy. Understanding where we come from involves understanding the interactions of many complex systems, ideals and events. In this course, we will focus on three traditions that came together in the ancient and medieval periods to give rise to Western culture as we know it: the Greco-Roman, the Judeo-Christian and the Germanic. While the contributions of Romans and Christians to the development of Western civilization are widely acknowledged, the influence of the Germans – or barbarians, as the Romans called them – is often overlooked. Our class will read philosophical, literary and historical texts that highlight the ideals of each tradition and discuss the historical forces that brought them together. We will also engage the attempts of philosophical and literary figures to synthesize these traditions. Classes will consist mostly in lecture, but plenty of time will be reserved for discussion.

IDS 171: Jews, Pagans and Christians: the Ancient and Medieval Worlds Reconsidered
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
Christianity grew out of first-century Judaism. Judaism, in turn, had its roots in ancient Mesopotamia. From the heyday of the Roman Empire, when Christians were a small and vulnerable minority, to the “Christian centuries,” when the papacy was strong enough to rival kings, Christianity interacted with the historical and cultural contexts of its day. Christians were shaped and informed by their worlds even as they challenged the status quo. This course takes us on a brief journey of the ancient and medieval worlds and introduce us to the historical, religious, philosophical and literary roots of the Western tradition. Emphasis will be given to meditative reading (i.e., texts that call for slow reading and contemplation), and we will consider what the ancient texts have to say to us in our day regarding love, greatness, the eternal — in short, what it means to be human.

IDS 171: Why We Travel: Journeys Across Borders and Between Cultures from the Classical Period to the Renaissance
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
We travel to find ourselves. Mark Twain once noted that travel would rid the world of prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. A wholesome and charitable human being, according to Clemens, could only be so if s/he understood how provincial and provisional her/his worldview truly was.

This is a travel course. We first travel to distant lands through the eyes of our texts and narrators. As this course is a CH1, we also travel to distant times, the lost continent of history that is indispensible if we are to know our own time and place. Lastly, we travel deeply into ourselves, ask of ourselves the challenging questions that have been asked since the beginning of recorded time: What is the meaning of life, of death, of faith, of community, of the borders we create for those who are not like us?

Like all travel abroad, you will feel the exhilaration of culture shock when we go to Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, medieval Europe and then land in the Americas. In this, the connections between travail and travel are important for to travel has always implied a search for hardship. In these trying times, can any endeavor that requires crossing borders and moving between cultures be anything but an ordeal?

True spiritual and academic work can never be easy. I only can promise that you will grow, that you will be a person Mark Twain would consider as wholesome and charitable. Keep in mind, though, that if you achieve these distinctions you also will be a global citizen. 

 IDS 171: Freedom, Justice and the Good Life
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
This course will focus on four specific time periods in history: 5th-century B.C. Greece, 1st-century Rome, beginnings of Islam and its expansion, and Dante's Florence. In each of the historical, philosophical and literary readings, we will be focusing on the themes of freedom, justice and the good life. The last half of the semester will be spent reading the Dante’s complete Divine Comedy and expanding on all of the ideas introduced in the earlier writings.

IDS 171: The Legacy of Athens and Jerusalem
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
Western culture bears the marks of many influences but perhaps none so enduring and fundamental as the intellectual tradition of ancient Greece and the Judeo-Christian belief systems. Spreading outwards from symbolic centers in Athens and Jerusalem respectively, these traditions shaped Western thought in ways that are still with us. In antiquity, Greek thought, which revered human reason as the guide to enlightenment and wellbeing, shaped reflections on ethics, philosophy and what we would now call the sciences throughout the Western world. Meanwhile, a religious movement originating in Palestine offered a message of hope founded on divine revelation. This movement survived obscurity and persecution until Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and thus a guide to belief and practice throughout the West.

This class will begin by examining central writings in both these traditions. From the Greeks, we will study thinkers like Plato, Aristotle and the stoics. From the Christians, we will look at the gospel writers and early church fathers. But then we will turn to the interaction and confluence of these two, sometimes in tension, as when the Church father Tertullian famously asked, “What has Athens to do with Jersusalem?”, and sometimes in synthesis, as when figures like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas wove ideas from Greek philosophy into their own Christian worldview.

IDS 171: Sport and the Ancient World: Gender, War, Morality, and Religion
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature and philosophy
Sports and athletic competitions were defining aspects of ancient Greek culture: the male athlete’s body epitomized citizen virtue; competitions spurred the production of art and poetry; and the Olympic games were understood as festivals that established criteria for ethnic identity and social division. Even though cheating was a persistent problem, athletic events took place within a religious context, through ritual and mythical associations — a fact that challenges the modern separation of sacred and secular. Philosophers wondered whether sport could be a positive outlet for a human being’s brutal lust for violence and blood.

Rome, by contrast, was a city of spectacles and imperially-sponsored games: gladiators competed for their lives and the public’s favor; wild beast hunts put imperial munificence on display; and the cynical poets suspected that all these shows served to dull the minds of an unsuspecting populace. In the Christian period, we find all the imagery of both sports and spectacles recycled and reimagined as service for Christ.

In short, when it comes to sports, the modern world has inherited from antiquity a mixed legacy of idealism and corruption, peace and violence, morality and religion. This course aims to examine critically the history and social role of sports and spectacles in the ancient world, examining the literature, philosophy and archaeological remains that they generated at the same time as we discuss the complex evolution of the revivals in modern times, from the Olympics to the World Cup. It will be team-taught in adjacent rooms, with both sections meeting together some days for lectures and separately for discussion. 

CH2 courses in all three disciplines

IDS 172: Perspectives on Science
Fulfills CH2 for history, literature and philosophy
What is science? How have society and culture shaped science? How has science in turn shaped society and culture? This course examines a variety of perspectives on these questions from the 16th century to the present day. Students will read leading philosophers’ texts on the nature of science, examine the lives and contributions of key figures in the history of science, and explore how the evolution of detective fiction through works by Voltaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and others helps us better to understand changing perspectives on science and the scientific method. To this end, students will write their own detective stories — highlighting the scientific aspects of the genre, the detective, and the philosophical methods for solving a mystery.

IDS 172: Disability in Modern Societies
Fulfills CH2 for history, literature and philosophy
In view of current debates about racial and gender identities, the discussion of disability is more urgent than ever. This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to answer this overarching question: Why does disability matter to us? Each week, we will survey major themes in disability studies and the history of medicine that push the boundaries of disability as we know it — by drawing upon a range of historical, literary and philosophical sources, as well as digital archives to explore theories of disease and disability, divinity and deformity in religious thought, monsters in literature, memoirs and memories of disability, disability activism, gender and disability, etc. By comparing disability cultures in a broad global historical context, from the 17th century to the present, we will uncover the roots of the stereotypes and representations of disability in today’s popular media, and make sense of disability as “difference” in productive and constructive ways.

IDS 172: Revolutions, Expatriates and Empire: Defining Nations in Paris
Fulfills CH2 for history, literature and philosophy
This new course, part of the Mellon Grand Challenges Initiative, is taught by Lauren Janes (history) with contributions by Natalie Dykstra (English), Pauline Remy (French) and Charles Green (psychology). Students will engage with history, philosophy and literature around the question of the nationalism and citizenship in Paris. We will explore Paris as a place where French national identity was defined, but also where American, African, Caribbean and global identities took shape.

We will break our course down into three units, and as we move through history we will shift our focus to different communities of thinkers, writers and revolutionaries. In Unit 1, Revolutionaries, we’ll engage deeply with key Enlightenment thinkers and the French Revolution of 1789. We will pay especially close attention to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke and the creation of the first French constitution of 1791. Unit 2, Expatriates, will examine Americans who wrote from Paris, with an emphasis on understanding how their experience in the city influenced their understanding of American identity. Unit 3 will examine the black nationalist literary and philosophical movements that centered on Paris in the 20th century. We will focus on authors who came to Paris from French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.

Students who are interested in these topics after the course will have opportunities for future linked courses, including a May Term course in Paris.

CH1 courses in history and literature

IDS 174: Black Feminist Thought: Literary and Historical Roots, 18th–21st centuries
Fulfills CH2 for literature and history; GLI
Students will explore the varied experiences of Black women across the black Diaspora and understand how such experiences shaped the development of black feminist thought. The specific focus of this course will be the literary and historical development black feminism thought over the last 200 years. To avoid the drawbacks of a traditionally linear chronology, students enrolled in this course will learn through a series of carefully crafted units or “cultural touchstones”—enslavement and its legacies, medical care, theology, fetishizing the body and citizenship. Within each unit, however, we will attempt to privilege a linear chronology of historical context and selections of literature. In doing so, students will explore how these cultural touchstones became some of conduits through which Black women constructed, shaped and articulated the overarching tenets of what emerged in the late 20th century as “black feminist thought.”

We will begin in the late-18th century Western Europe and the American colonies, understanding the cornerstones of what has become the women’s rights movement in the United States. From there, we explore the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies, particularly those in the West Indies and the United States. Next, we turn to the treatment of black women’s bodies and medical care in France and the United States. Then, we examine contexts of ancient Israel to understand Black women’s fraught relationships with Christian theology and Black theology in West African and American contexts. Then, we explore the “fetishizing” of black women’s bodies and finally turn our attention to the notion of “Citizenship.”

Also fulfills the Global Learning — International requirement and counts as an elective for Women’s and Gender Studies.

CH1 courses in literature and philosophy

IDS 175: Classical Mythology and Plato’s Republic
Fulfills CH1 for literature and philosophy; GLI
Classical mythology is an invaluable component of the literature, art and thought of the Western world because it provided a great variety of stories for authors to read and adapt for their own artistic, literary or intellectual purposes. From the ancient authors themselves to modern theater and film, the stories of the ancient world have captured our minds and imaginations for centuries. But myths are not only stories. Myths project a world-view, an ideology, a unique perspective on how ancient Greek and Roman societies lived and how they viewed their own cultures. This course will attempt to occupy the space in between: a careful study of the ways in which the Greeks and Romans used their myths, what those myths have to say about the world and the people that produced them, and also why those myths still capture our attention today. The main texts we will be reading are drawn from the fields of literature and philosophy: Homer’s Odyssey, Plato’s Republic and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Despite the fact that each of these texts propose radically different views about the nature of storytelling, they are all still concerned with the same perennial questions: the role of humanity in the universe, the influence of the gods in the human world, what is heroic action, the question of what happens to us after death, the differences between the sexes and if love really makes the world go round. Using these texts as our guides, we will examine not only how the ancient Greeks and Romans approached these questions, but how we too may (or may not) use them in our own search for the truth.

CH1 history courses

History 130: Introduction to Ancient Civilization
Fulfills CH1 for history, GLI
See catalog for description.

History 207: Introduction to World History to 1500
Fulfills CH1 for history, GLI
See catalog for description.

CH2 history courses

History 131: Introduction to Modern European History
Fulfills CH2 for history, GLI
See catalog for description.

CH1 literature courses

English 231: Literature of the Western World I
Fulfills CH1 for literature
Heroism. Love. Travel. Those are the topics we will cover in this literature course. We will trace each of these topics as they wind their way through literature, from the earliest of human writing to the Early Modern period. So if you have ever wondered where our concept of heroism comes from and how it developed over the years, especially the more manly and thus violent forms of heroism, then be prepared to delve deeply. And if you have ever been in love or are looking to be in love, so you wondered how the concept of love comes to us and how it developed over the years, especially the more chivalric forms of love, then be prepared to delve deeply. Or if you ever had dreams of taking over the world, then this course will help you delve deeply into concepts of colonialism and empire building. Heroism. Love. Travel. Reading lots of literature and writing about those topics as you develop critical skills for doing that reading and that writing: all you need to live the good life.

English 231: Literature of the Western World I
Fulfills CH1 for literature

The standard path of the mythological adventure of the hero is a magnification of the formula represented in the rites of passage: separation — initiation — return: which might be named the nuclear unit of the monomyth. A hero ventures forth from the realm of common day into a region of supernatural wonder; fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won; the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
—Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1948)

English 231 is a course in the classics: the texts that form the foundation of western — that is, European — literature from the beginnings of written history to about 1600. From Gilgamesh and Homer (the ancient world) through Dante’s Inferno and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (the Middle Ages) to Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and the plays of the Mexican nun Sor Juana (the Renaissance), we will trace the development of literary expression, learn to surmount its difficulties, and recognize its continuing presence in the way that even we perceive our world and ourselves. Obviously it’s impossible to cover so many centuries with anything like thoroughness, but we make a valiant effort to investigate works either artistically superior or most representative of the culture that produced them. While the contentious climate of postmodern opinion now challenges the whole concept of “the classics,” most students who give these texts a careful reading come to confirm their value as embodiments and transmitters of all that is best in our tradition. To give a thread of continuity to this wide-ranging foray into the literature of the past, we will follow the recurrent themes of nature versus culture, male versus female and action versus contemplation, and we will confront in particular the mighty archetype, persistent from Gilgamesh to Superman, of the hero’s journey. What gets these heroes going? What do they seek? How do their journeys lead them into the strangest of all regions, the human mind? And can their journeys tell us something, even at the distance of centuries, about the journeys we ourselves must undertake? These are some of the questions that will concern us this semester.

English 233: Ancient Global Literature
Fulfills CH1 for literature, GLI
Ancient Global Literatures presents a dialogic perspective of the ancient literatures of the Eastern and Western traditions within a fresh and diverse range of selections. It seeks to examine the world’s great literature and by exploring the historical, philosophical, social, literary and cultural links between past and present, East and West. The course draws from selections including epic and lyric poetry, drama, and prose narrative, and focuses on the oral narratives of Ancient Africa and the Middle East.

CH2 literature courses

English 232: Literature of the Western World II
Fulfills CH2 for literature
This version of World Lit II will ask students to:

  • Read, with care, several of the many important literary texts of the Neoclassical, Romantic, Realist and Modern eras in the western world
  • Discover and appreciate aspects of the developing literary art
  • Understand how such texts reflect the ideas and values of their eras and likewise have contributed to our own

The course method will encourage personal connection with the readings and contribution of personal observations during class alongside informal lecture. Students, therefore, should expect to participate frequently during class, at which attendance will be required. Students should expect to do a fair amount of reading, often of rather difficult material, as well as a fair amount of informal and formal writing.

English 234: Modern Global Literature
Fulfill CH2 for literature, GLI
Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and its depiction of imperial conquest and domination changed the relationship between western literature and other literatures in English, especially those of former British colonies, forever. In its encounter with other cultures, a body of work and criticism emerges that perceives and evidently critiques traditional societies through the discourse of colonial domination and control.

This course would focus on how former colonized societies from Sub-Saharan Africa to South Asia, the Caribbean and South America react to this discourse of colonization and their attempts at de-colonization and promoting their political and cultural independence. In the process, this form of literature would “write back to the center” by addressing issues as destruction of indigenous cultures, representation of otherness, identity, alterity and gender.

Thus, in this course, we would cover a considerable period of growth and development of global literatures from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy. Within this historical framework, we would trace the impact of westernization on the literature, and its reconfiguration of colonial perceptions of indigenous societies in the process of writing back to empire.

CH1 philosophy courses

Philosophy 230: Ancient Philosophy
Fulfills CH1 for philosophy
See catalog for description.

CH2 philosophy courses

Philosophy 232: Modern Philosophy
Fulfills CH2 for philosophy
See catalog for description.

For History 130, 131, 207, and 208 and Philosophy 237, see the descriptions in the college catalog.

Summer 2017 on-campus and online courses

CH1 courses in all three disciplines

IDS 171: From Virgil to Dante: Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature, and philosophy; GLI
May term, on campus

During the 1500 years between the birth of Christ and the Renaissance, the world as we know it today took shape through changes such as the rise of Christianity and Islam, the invention of romantic love, the formation of modern nations, and the interaction of Christian and classical thought. Yet even though this is such a formative time for our own culture, people saw the world much differently that we do. We will try to imagine medieval life and understand medieval thought through the lenses of history, literature, philosophy, and to a lesser extent theology, music, and art. Transporting ourselves to the past can give us a new perspective on the present and on big questions like what makes a good life, what it is to love, and how people can live together well in communities and nations. This will happen most powerfully through our encounter with great texts from this time such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Augustine’s Confessions, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, philosophical works by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, the Lays of Marie de France, and above all Dante’s Divine Comedy, which we will read almost in its entirety. Students will write several short papers, one longer essay, and midterm and final exams.

IDS 171: Self, Society and the Sacred
Fulfills CH1 for history, literature, and philosophy
May term, online

This course is an introduction to the history and ideas of western culture from ancient times to the middle ages. The course is interdisciplinary in nature, which means that we will look at the classical period of western culture through three different disciplines of the humanities – history, literature and philosophy. The unifying theme of the course is the construction of the self, society, and the sacred throughout western history. How does one become a self? How should we live together in society? How do we understand and relate to that which is sacred? What is the relationship between self, society and the sacred? These are the questions that motivated the development of western culture and these are the questions we will be asking and trying to answer in this course. From fifth century B.C. Greece to first century A.D. Rome, to the rise of Christianity and Islam in Medieval Europe and lands east, we will be encountering some of the greatest texts and the central contexts of our cultural heritage. We will also be exploring our own sense of self, society, and the sacred, for only by understanding who we have been can we understand who we are now. 

 

CH2 courses in all three disciplines

IDS 172: Banned Books: Freedom and Censorship in the Age of Print
Fulfills CH2 for history, literature, and philosophy
May, June, and July terms, online

What makes some writers so dangerous? Why would the Zeeland Public Schools get so upset about Harry Potter? Why did some readers think that The Catcher in the Rye was a threat to American national security? Why would the Catholic Church maintain an Index of Forbidden Books for more than 400 years? Are some scientific discoveries too dangerous for the public? Why was freedom of the press a crucial part of the revolutions in England, France, and the United States? Should some books, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, be banned from schools because they are too offensive? Why have banned books, such as Voltaire’s Candide and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, become bestsellers and literary classics? Why do some people still discuss Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud in hushed tones? Why is the struggle between freedom and censorship a challenge that every generation must face?Those are some of the questions “Banned Books” will attempt to answer.

Designed for future teachers, scientists, librarians, activists, and journalists—as well as anyone who cares about the complex interplay of history and literature—"Banned Books" provides an overview of major events in Western Civilization during the last 500 years, from the Reformation to Globalization—while encountering a selection of banned books as a basis for more in-depth understanding of cultures to which they responded. Materials are not included in this course gratuitously; participants must risk being shocked and offended by some of the texts and images. While this course will not take place in a moral vacuum, "Banned Books" endorses no specific agenda other than the need, as mature thinkers, to balance freedom with responsibility.

IDS 172: Perspectives on Science
Fulfills CH2 for history, literature, and philosophy
May, June, and July terms, online

What is science? How have society and culture shaped science? How has science in turn shaped society and culture? This course examines a variety of perspectives on these questions from the sixteenth century to the present day. Students will read leading philosophers’ texts on the nature of science, examine the lives and contributions of key figures in the history of science, and explore how the evolution of detective fiction through works by Voltaire, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and others helps us better to understand changing perspectives on science and its methods.

IDS 172: Authority and the Individual
Fulfills CH2 for history, literature, and philosophy
June term, online

How do you define yourself as an individual?  And how do you relate to the many different authorities in your life?  When someone (parent, spiritual leader, government authority or dorm resident director) lays down a rule, do you respond positively?  Break it as a matter of principle?  Toe the line but grumble?  Do you react differently to different kinds of authority?  When two kinds of authority conflict, how do you respond?

In this course, we will examine how others have seen their relationships to the many authorities in their lives.  We’ll cover a great range of time and a great variety of kinds of thinking, from Luther’s distinctions between spiritual and secular authorities, to Shakespeare’s exploring the power held by colonial authorities, to Kant’s appeal to reason as humankind’s most important authority.  We’ll cover texts from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, from literature, history, and philosophy.  We will consider texts as they relate to their particular moment in history and as they relate to each other.

Perhaps you’ll see yourself in some of these thinkers.  Perhaps you won’t.  Yet whether you agree or disagree with them, digesting what they have said can allow you to examine closely what you think.

CH2 courses in history and literature

IDS 174: Native American Literature and History
Fulfills CH2 for literature and history; GLD/CD4
June and July terms, online

The premise of this course is rooted in the ideas which uphold our Cultural Heritage Program:  that knowledge of and reflection on primary materials as well as secondary analyses from the breadth of human experience are important for the growth and education of a college student. 

The way this online course is structured is based on that premise.  We will begin historically at a point before Columbus, proceed through the conquest of the Americas, and then take time to look at the ways in which Native Americans sought to maintain their way of life and the way they created meaning in life, both before being placed in Reservations and all the way into the present. 

This is the way it will unfold:  each of the four weeks will form an individual unit.  Monday and Tuesday will be devoted to reading materials and viewing films, basically looking closely at the resources for that unit.  Wednesday and Thursday will be used to complete textual reflection assignments and writing essays.  All work is due by noon on Friday.  Friday and Saturday will be for outside of class creative and fun assignments. 

The premise behind this structure is that learning and growth are paramount.  Because.  This is a responsibility course.  You will find that many of the essays will ask you to reflect then act.  For example, one of the last things you do for this course is donate time and/or money to a worthy Native American cause.  In other assignments you will be asked to go beyond the classroom and apply your knowledge to everyday life. 

In summary, the premise of this course is 1) that it holds relevant information, 2) learning will be accomplished by taking the whole week to read then reflect, 3) responsibility via education and action will be the endgame for this course. 

CH1 courses in literature and philosophy

IDS 175: Classical Mythology and Plato’s Republic
Fulfills CH1 for literature and philosophy; GLD
June and July terms, online
Instructor: Steve Maiullo

Classical Mythology is an invaluable component of the literature, art, and thought of the western world because it provided a great variety of stories for authors to read and adapt for their own artistic, literary, or intellectual purposes. From the ancient authors themselves to modern theater and film, the stories of the ancient world have captured our minds and imaginations for centuries. But myths are not only stories. Myths project a world-view, an ideology, a unique perspective on how people in ancient societies lived and how they viewed their own cultures. This course will attempt to occupy the space in between: a careful study of the ways in which the Greeks and Romans used their myths, what those myths have to say about the world and the people that produced them, and also why those myths still capture our attention today. We will read the stories of the ancient world in order to understand the cultures that produced them, but we will also use them to understand ourselves.

At different points we will be asking these questions and many more: Do we control our own destinies or are we the playthings of the gods? What do we think heroism is? What happens to us after we die? Why do we go to war and how do we provide for our returning veterans? What are the costs of war and are those costs always worth it? Do we decide with whom we fall in love or is that controlled by something greater than our intellects or ourselves? What does it take to build lives for ourselves? Are there crucial differences between men and women? Can we control all our emotions? Do we have to? Why do we form societies? What is the role of government? How can we really think critically and determine the difference between what is true and what isn’t? What is the goal of education? Are there some convictions and beliefs worth dying for?  What is the nature and purpose of religious belief? Are the some laws we should break or do we have to follow them all the time?

CH2 courses in literature

English 234: Modern Global Literatures
Fulfills CH2 for literature; GLI/CD4
May term, on campus

Modern Global Literatures focuses on how former colonized societies from Sub-Saharan Africa to South Asia, the Caribbean and South America react to this discourse of colonization and their attempts at de-colonization and promoting their political and cultural independence. In the process, this form of literature would “write back to Empire” by addressing issues as destruction of indigenous cultures, representation of otherness, identity, alterity, and gender. We will cover a considerable period of growth and development of Global Literatures from West Africa to India, Mexico and the Caribbean. Within this historical framework, we will trace the impact of westernization on its literature and its reconfiguration of colonial perceptions of indigenous societies in the process of writing back to empire.