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GREEK CULTURE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD:

 

Co-requisites:

The course is paired with Writing Practicum I, which can take its essay subjects from this course. It aims, in part, at developing rhetorical skills, at the same time that Logic is developing logical skills. It is paired with Ancient Philosophy, and, with it, is one of the basic foundations for the Curriculum as a whole: it engages in literary analysis of texts and cultural analysis of significant Western institutions rooted in Greek culture. The course is also the student's introduction to the history of the Western world, which is also developed in Western Heritage.

 

Content:

This course explores the achievements of Greek Culture, within the context of the ancient world, through the reading of its great literary texts. As the first seminar of the Campion sequence, the course seeks as well to lay the foundation for our seminar method: small-group setting with participation by all members, continual reference to the text assigned, possibility of a variety of interpretations, importance of private reflection prior to arrival in class. The course highlights Greek Culture as one of two chief sources of Western Civilization. Although the bulk of the reading consists of Greek works, the first two works read are Mesopotamian, with parallel references to Hebrew texts. Egyptian material may likewise be included. The non-Greek material is included in order (a) to dispel the notion that Greek civilization is the most ancient factor in Western culture, (b) to have a basis for comparing Greek cultural constructs, and (c) to provide an opportunity from the outset of our curriculum for students to appreciate non-European achievements. There is emphasis on the learning of a significant amount of Greek terms. Beyond Greek Culture, great historical events and institutions of the ancient world will be highlighted.

The time period covered is from approximately 2000 BC (Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Hebraic cultures) to the death of Alexander the Great (end of 4th century BC). The course thus covers the most ancient period in the history of Western Civilization; the Western Heritage course will begin with the Hellenistic world just after the death of Alexander.

 

Possible sequence of topics:

  • The concepts of chaos and cosmos, creation by theomachy and ex nihilo
  • The notion of beauty: cosmic, human, literary
  • The presence and influence of the divine
  • The figure and dynamics of the hero
  • The nature of the polis and the organization of human society
  • The role of literature in celebrating and memorializing cultural achievements
  • The role of literature in exploring crucial human issues (life and death, justice and wrong, individual autonomy and common good, personal emotion and social duty)
  • The emergence and socio-historical relevance of literary genres (epic, lyric, dramatic--both tragic and comic--and prose)
  • The evolution of the ideal of excellence from its aristocratic to its democratic form
  • Tension between divine and human law o Risks of both irrationality and excessive rationality
  • The struggle for "virtue"
  • Vicissitudes of the Athenian achievement
Texts:    
Homer Iliad, Odyssey
Aeschylus Oresteia
Sophocles Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus
Euripedes Medea, Alcestis
Herodotus Histories
Plato Symposium, Apology, Crito
Aristotle Poetics
Aristophanes Clouds, Birds
Thucydides Peloponnesian Wars
Xenophon

The Persian Expedition, Recollections of Socrates


Recommended:

H.D. Amos and A.G.P. Lang, These Were the Greeks. This book of historical and cultural summary has proven extremely helpful in establishing a framework for the works of literature. The abundant photographs of Greek art provide very enlightening correlations to literary texts. It contains maps, time-charts, and sketches.