|Honors 104 Mariz---Bond Hall 350
Winter Term 2008 Office Hours, 10 MTR
and by appointment
Phone: (360) 650-3446
Honors 104 is an interdisciplinary introduction to the culture of the Western world from the opening of the Middle Ages, i.e., somewhere between the end of the third century to the end of the fifth century of the common era, to the present. The course covers the broad cultural traditions of the West, including its history, literature, philosophy, art, and religion. This class, as was the case with its predecessor, Honors 103, deals with the realm that critics and scholars often call high culture or culture with a capital C. The differences and divisions between so-called high and low cultures are never quite so simple or clean as one prefers, but there is obviously great significance in what one age preserves and passes on to another, as well as what any age regards as its progenitors. This term we will be dealing with the complex culture which has been developing for at least the last millennium and one-half, the one which still defines us to a significant extent in the early twenty-first century. There is no textbook as such for the course, but I will try to provide the class with a sufficient amount of information to make the sources clear. If anyone would like a textbook to provide background information, let me know, and I will provide a list of titles.
As will readily become apparent, the works we read are densely textured, and it will not be possible to explore much of the detail below their surfaces, e.g., some people devote their lifetimes (and quite productive lifetimes) to the study of Dante or Shakespeare, while we will spend only a few weeks with a small part of the body each author’s works. Our object will be to grasp the various sources we study in broad outline and to follow one or two themes in each of them, e.g., the nature of the individual and the relation between the individual and society, the place of religion in society and changes in frameworks of religious belief, the rise of various new ways of conceptualizing the individual and social relationships, e.g., Romanticism, Positivism, the effects of science on culture and thought, the rise of modern industrial society on forms of social and economic organization, change and continuity in the development of modern traditions, and perhaps some other issue(s), according to the time we have to devote to a single source. No doubt, there will be many interesting and important points we cannot investigate at length, but we will try to gain as much insight into the sources as possible in the time we have. Even though we are thus constrained, you should, by all means, ask questions as they arise. Don't leave this class with questions hanging over that could have been answered.
Class work will be of two basic types, lectures, which will provide a guiding, chronological, topical framework for the period and works we study, and discussions of these works. As was the case in Honors 103, lectures will be relatively infrequent, and they will provide background information necessary to make the sources we study understandable. Discussions will occupy the bulk of our time, and it is therefore essential that students come to class having read the material. For those of you who were in Honors 103 with this instructor in fall quarter, things will work about the same way this term as last.
There are some additional points that require emphasis. First, this is a general education class, and as such it serves as an important part of the intellectual underpinning any student should acquire while in college. While it will not satisfy any major requirement, save for students in a few majors (history and English are among them) it does, in many important respects, provide the student with the means to grasp the world at large and to make informed decisions about a wide variety of issues. General education is a very important component of a student’s overall education. Take care to appreciate what you acquire in these courses and understand that they are preparation for life, especially civic and social life. In multiple senses, these classes are as important as those that equip you to function effectively in the economic and professional worlds.
Second, this class employs an interdisciplinary methodology to gain an understanding of sources, and it will use the techniques of literary analysis, history, art history, and other fields to illuminate the works we consider. It will be necessary for students to learn a good bit of methodology and detail (for those of familiar with the Scott article from Honors 103, you will be talking about it once again), but this is neither a "memory" course, nor one where students must remember every arcane point of each disciplinary methodology. The methodological tools are the means to comprehend the works under investigation--the sources are always the fundamental things. Likewise, while there are many facts you must retain, even if you should commit to memory every fact you receive, e.g., the date of Dante’s birth or the place of his burial, the political arrangements of the Florentine state, Shakespeare’s father’s occupation, and so on, you would not be assured of doing well. The stress in papers, on the examination, and in class discussions will be on interpretation. You will be expected to form independent (though not necessarily novel) ideas about the material that we study this term. As you will soon learn, there are no fixed answers to many of the questions you will be asking of the sources, and while we will try to come to some general sense of the meaning and significance of each work, there will probably not be a consensus about any one source, much less unanimity of opinion regarding the body of work we are studying. Do not be concerned if your ideas about a work or some phase of it do not agree with those of other members of the class. You should be concerned if, and only if, you do not understand the works, or you cannot find support for your ideas in the texts themselves. In such cases, you may want to read more closely or to reconsider your ideas. It is always all right to change your mind. Remember also that it is fine to disagree with one another on some point or other of interpretation, but you should learn to do so without being disagreeable.
Ultimately, as you will come to understand, this class is in quest of the “modern,” its meaning and constituent parts, as well as developing some sense of how we (and this class is much more concerned with who we are than was the case in Honors 103) arrived at this point---it is interesting (and important) to note that while we in the United States think of modern and contemporary as almost synonymous, that is not the case in other parts of the world. For historians of Europe in this country, “modern” designates the period that commences with the French Revolution, i.e., 1789. For historians of the United States, modern normally designates the era since the New Deal. There are many other ways to conceive the modern era. At the University of Oxford, for instance, the modern history syllabus dates the beginning of the modern historical period (to distinguish it from ancient history) in 285 A.D., which is the year of the accession of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (which may well be a name entirely unfamiliar to you---don’t worry if you have never heard of him, or if you never hear or read his name again). As you will also come to understand, many of the constituent parts of the so-called “modern mind” trace their origins far back in time, well over a millennium and one-half and trace their origins to ancient religions, e.g., Judaism, to ancient philosophy, e.g., Idealism (Platonism), Stoicism. Others are of far more recent origin, e.g., concerns about modern forms of economic and industrial organization. There are many ways, in other words, to conceive of the modern, and we will deal with a number of them.
An ineluctable question, though one that is also simultaneously compelling and unanswerable, will also arise: where are we going? The (alas) tentative answers to this last will be interesting, and as you will discover, determining where we are will also present us with a number of absorbing paradoxes and antinomies.
Finally, what happens in this class depends on the students much more than on the instructor. If you come to class prepared to discuss the material, time will fly. If you are passive, the instructor will talk more, and things will be much, much duller. Your predecessors in Honors 103, some of whom continue in this class, proved to be quite stimulating. I have every confidence you will be a lively bunch, too.
A FEW GUIDES FOR THE COURSE
1. Follow the reading schedule below and complete each of the readings in advance
of the date for which it is assigned.
2. Take notes on your reading, either in the margins of the text, on note cards, on a separate sheet of paper, or in a computer file. You will be surprised how much more you get from them. Review your notes before we actually discuss a work.
3. Turn in all written work on time. Unexcused late work will be penalized.
4. Regular attendance is essential in this course.
TEXTS FOR THE COURSE
: Every student should purchase the texts listed below. All are available in the Student Coop Bookstore and at The College Store.
Austen, Jane, Sense and Sensibility (Dover)
Dante, Divine Comedy, I, Hell
(Penguin, Sayre, ed.)
Freud, Sigmund, Civilization and Its Discontents
Kafka, Franz, The Complete Stories
Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Prince
Marx, Karl, The Communist Manifesto
Ong, Walter, Orality and Literacy
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, The Social Contract (Penguin)
Shakespeare, William, King Lear
In addition, you will be expected to consult the article by Joan Scott in the Honors Office, College Hall 204.
1. Papers: Each student will be required to submit two papers. The first, which is to be entitled "Machiavelli’s Prince’s Sins and Virtues in Terms of Dante’s Morality," must be based on your reading and discussions of the works of the two authors noted in the title, and it must determine the specific sins that the prince commits, or at least that qualify as sins in Dante’s terms. At the same time, keep in mind that not everything that Machiavelli advocates that the prince do may be a sin. Note especially that Dante places a high value on skillful politicians who are able to facilitate the successful functioning of a society---you will receive more information on this topic early in the term. In other words, and as you will discover, this is no simple task. While fraud, murder, and every other conceivable sin may be involved in princely success, there are also mitigating factors, e.g., the welfare the successful prince wins for his subjects, freedom for his state from political domination, and so on. Your job will be to line up the prince’s virtues against his vices. This is a challenging assignment, and it will be your job in this paper to determine the prince’s good parts as well as the bad in terms of Dante’s scale of moral values. The second paper, which is to be entitled “Rousseau, Austen, Freud, Kafka, and the Character of the Modern,” must look at the work of those four authors and derive from them an idea of the “modern.” This too, you will find to be a challenging assignment, as nowhere within these works will you find a specific definition of the term “modern”. Instead you will encounter the characteristics of modern political forms and actors, philosophical propositions, medical patients
, or fictional characters, all acting and displaying specifically modern traits in a modern setting. In the paper you are required first to come to some definition of the “modern” and the meaning of the term according to some set of indices, e.g., things such as the psychological nature of the individual, the relationship between the individual and natural world, the scope and character of the modern community and the relationship of the individual to it. Again, the suggestions above are just that, suggestions, and you are free to cast your net as widely as you think necessary to do a good job with the paper. By no means should you believe that you are bound to consider the topics enumerated above and only those. Likewise, you may decide that using no more than one of the topics above that you have sufficient latitude to create a good paper.
In each paper, you will be required to define the issues you chose to discuss and to defend your reasons for choosing them and not some other set of issues.
As you will note, the paper topics are purposely specific to provide focus for your papers but sufficiently broad to allow you to work with a wide range of ideas and approaches to the sources. If you have questions about the direction you want to take in either or both of the papers, please feel free to consult with me. You likely will find things you did in 103 interesting and helpful in writing these papers. You may approach the topics using those ideas, or some combination of those or other models of analysis we discuss during the term. This list, too, is suggestive rather than exhaustive.
As was true in Honors 103, these are not research papers
, and I do not expect, in fact I actively discourage any library research on these topics. Your ideas and insights about these sources at this point are more important than any knowledge you might gain from detailed research. Again, the assigned paper topics are purposely open-ended and are designed to give you maximum flexibility in working with an idea and a group of disparate sources. This also is not a “footnote exercise,” i.e., one concerned with learning about the elaborate process of citing sources. There will come a time and place where proper footnote form is very important, but this is neither the time nor the place. Since everyone will be working from a controlled set of sources, parenthetic footnotes with short-form citations will be fine, e.g., Lear
, III, 2, 21-34
(this is a slightly modified MLA form) or Austen, 48, and so on will work for our purposes.
The variety of things open to you as regards the papers will become clearer as we get further into the course.
Papers must be typed and double-spaced and may not
exceed eight typewritten pages
(this comes to something more than two thousand words in a standard twelve point font); this is a firm
length limit. The first paper is due in class on February 1. The second is due in class on March 14
. You may submit one
preliminary draft of each paper, and you will have the opportunity to revise the draft you submit for a grade; indeed, in some cases you will want to revise it.
2. Class Discussion: As noted above
, the vast majority of class meetings in this course will be class discussion. You will be expected to contribute on a daily basis. I will be looking less for a volume of talk than for an indication you have read, understood, and reflected on the material under discussion. In fine, quality is much more important than quantity.
3. Final Examination: There will be an essay final examination in this course, which will be given on Tuesday, March 18, at 8 a.m.
in the regular classroom. You will receive a selection of sample questions prior to the examination to serve as a study guide. Please bring a large, empty bluebook to class not later than March 14, the last regularly scheduled class meeting; do NOT put your name on the bluebook. Bluebooks will be distributed randomly to you at the final examination.
DETERMINATION OF COURSE GRADE
First paper---------100 points
Second paper--------100 points
Class Discussion----100 points
Final Examination---100 points
Grades will be determined on the following basis: 360-400 points = A, 320-359 = B, 280-319 = C, 240-279 = D and 0-239 = F. Grades may in some cases run lower than the schedule noted above, e.g., A grades may begin at 355 points rather than 360. Grades will not under any circumstances run higher, i.e., it will not be necessary to accumulate more than the minimum total of 360 points to earn a grade of A or more than 320 points to receive a grade of B.
LECTURE, DISCUSSION AND READING SCHEDULE
Week of January 7
: Introduction to the methods of the class, to the medieval world, and to Dante’s Christian Epic. We will talk about Ong book and the Scott article as well as the social
, intellectual, economic, and other characteristics of the medieval world, particularly as they represent a departure from the world of late antiquity.
In methodological terms we will want to think about the print culture Ong discusses as well as the gendered character of the sources we will be reading and discussing. In historical terms we will be talking about the society that arose on the wreckage of the ancient world. As you will discover, Europe regressed in many ways after the collapse of the Roman Empire, not only in economic and demographic terms, but in terms of literacy and other indices, e.g., techniques in a number of fields such as painting and sculpture. Simultaneously a new society, the basis of our own, was coming into being. In the Ong book, concentrate especially on chapters 4, 5, and 6. If you have not read the Scott article, be sure to consult it as well.
Once you have finished them, begin reading Dante and complete it as soon as possible. Note that Dante’s work is an allegory---learn the meaning of this word if you do not already know it---and we will want to understand what allegorical treatment of topic means. We will look at the overall structure of the underworld and a number of the occupants as of its specific circles as well. Hell is filled with many individuals who will be obscure or completely unknown to you
, and so don’t get lost in the details. We will go into a study of a few of them to illustrate Dante’s ideas about morality, sin, justice, and so on. You will find Dante’s Hell an interesting place, not only for the punishments meted out to sinners, but for the occupants themselves and the ways in which Dante conceives of a punishment fitting a crime. He is a very harsh judge. For those of you interested in further reading on Dante, the following are standard works: C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image
; Erich Auerbach, Dante: Poet of the Secular World
; and Umberto Eco, Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
. We will begin discussing Dante this week. Your edition has a very good introduction, which you should read closely.
Week of January 14
: Dante concluded.
Week of January 21
: Renaissance Political Thought. We will deal with Machiavelli this week. Though his works and views are widely criticized, he is one of the least well understood of all Renaissance thinkers; you will likely need to shed many of your preconceptions about him and redefine your understanding of the term “Machiavellian.” He lived and wrote in a chaotic era
, working against a background of uncertainty, intrigue, and war. The Prince
is written specifically to address political life in these circumstances, and it should not be confused with more abstract treatises on politics with which you may already be familiar, e.g., Plato’s Republic
, Aristotle’s Politics
, or John Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government
Week of January 28
: Shakespeare’s King Lear
. Shakespeare is without doubt the greatest writer in our language, and as great a writer as exists in any language. His fame, which he richly deserves, stretches across languages, time, and cultures. A noted critic named Harold Bloom believes that his characters, particularly King John (from Shakespeare’s history play of the same name), represents a profound departure from previous writers and ages in conceptions of the mental equipment and individuality of characters---Bloom calls this change “the birth of the human.” Look carefully at Lear to see what characterizes his mental and emotional universe and to determine what it means to be human in the Shakespearean sense. If you can remember back to the characters in Greek tragedy, how has the conception of the tragic hero changed? The best recent biography/study of Shakespeare is Stephen Greenblatt, Will in the World
, if you are interested in reading more about him. First paper due in class, Friday, February 1.
Week of February 4
: Shakespeare, concluded
Week of February 11
: The Enlightenment and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Like Shakespeare, Rousseau brings us face to face with a new mental universe with a new set of issues, particularly those associated with new theories about politics, and the nature of human political and social bonds. He represents a new, rational-cum-historical way of conceiving politics and social relations. Look carefully at the characteristics and implications of Rousseau’s political ideas. You should also understand that a new kind of epistemology (as with many other terms that are staples of this class, if you don’t know the meaning of the term, find a good dictionary and get a solid definition)lies at the base of his thinking. Rousseau is also, paradoxically, not only one of the benchmark thinkers of the Enlightenment and its rationalism, but one of the principle sources of the Enlightenment’s polar opposite
, Romanticism. Whereas the former stressed reason, the latter emphasized emotion and feeling as the most significant sources of truth. Rousseau may confound and exasperate you, but he will not bore you.
Week of February 18
: Jane Austen and the Rise of Novel. Jane Austen will serve as the vehicle by which we explore the literature of the novel. It is an ancient form (it has its origins in Hellenistic times and was a popular literary genre among the Romans), but in the modern world it serves different functions from its predecessors---don’t worry about the ancient novel here. We will spend some time talking about the novel’s audience and the means by which one can understand the nature of communication between writer and reader, as well as characteristics of the form. The story in Sense and Sensibility
is fairly straightforward, but it also has a number of interesting sidelights, and note the way in which Austen explores and reveals characters. Read Austen, complete.
Week of February 25
: Marx and the Critique of the Modern Economic, Social, and Political Order. Marx was an obscure writer in his own day but achieved great success and a considerable following in the years after his death (1883). Best known now as the prophet of a set of failed revolutions, he is nonetheless an important student of modern economic, political, and social forms
, and his ideas continue to exercise considerable influence in the realms of critical political, social, and economic thought. Read Marx, complete.
Week of March 3
: Freud and the recovery of the unconscious. Despite all of the negative things you may have heard about him, and despite the reaction against his ideas in the last generation, Freud remains a seminally important writer. He combines science with striking insights into the structure of human consciousness. Try to get at the fundamentals of Freudianism. Read Freud, complete.
Week of March 10
: Kafka and the modern. Kafka is among the most compellingly interesting of all modern novelists in his use of the fantastic and the allegorical. His stories have their own internal logic and are connected to many of the currents of modernity. SECOND PAPER DUE IN CLASS ON MARCH 14. Remember to bring an empty bluebook to class this week.
Week of March 17
: FINAL EXAMINATION, TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 8 A.M.