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Literature I: Rome-Early Renaissance:



Greek Culture in the Ancient World, Ancient Philosophy, Old Testament.



This course is paired with New Testament and Patristics, whose religious culture is the fountainhead for most of its readings. It is also related to the Human Person: the philosophical examination of the nature and destiny of man is paired with the image of man as pilgrim.


The seminar, which covers the period from the beginning of the Christian era to the beginning of the 16th century, studies as many great texts as possible from this period. Aesthetic excellence, socio-historical significance, and variety of genre are the criteria for selecting the texts. The theme of the "journey" can aid in a loose way to provide continuity. Although the chief emphasis of the course is aesthetic--the appreciation of the works as creations of poetic art--the selection also serves to follow the development of Western culture within the three great epochs indicated. The permanence of the classical achievement of Greece and Rome (and particularly the "myth" of Rome itself as supreme cultural nexus) is explored in its many permutations.


Possible sequence of topics:

  • The evolving notion of the hero (against the background, from previous courses, of Mesopotamian, Homeric, and Hebraic antecedents): Aeneas as Roman paragon of man with a mission
  • The passions as heroic (Ovid)
  • Augustine: a man between two worlds
  • The Christian models (ascetic, contemplative, or warrior-saint)
  • New view of the divine as fate or providence, enjoining obedience
  • Homo viator: linear journey from known to unknown, contrasting Homeric journey of return
  • Man's vocation to journey from time to eternity
  • Emergence of vernacular literature
  • Dante's synthesis of classical and Christian ęsthetics
  • Realism and the exaltation of ordinary man (Boccaccio, Chaucer)
  • Invention of "romantic love"
  • The many levels of allegory
  • Sacramentality of the world as place for divine epiphany
  • Humanism: sweet rationality and reforming zeal
  • Satire, the critical spirit, and new theories of man in the Renaissance
  The Song of Roland, Beowulf, Celestina, The Cid
Virgil Aeneid
Dante Inferno, Purgatorio
Shakespeare Plays and Sonnets
Cervantes Don Quixote
Milton Paradise Lost
Goethe Faust
Thomas More Utopia
Pascal Pensees