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Western Heritage :



Greek Culture in the Ancient World, Ancient Philosophy, and Old Testament. Western Heritage also provides the historical framework for the classical literary works studied in Literature I.



The course in the western heritage has a joint aim: to enter imaginatively into the past in order to make the present more intelligible. The development of thought is best seen with the eyes of those who participated in it, and therefore selections from some primary sources are required.

The course begins with the Romans. (Near Eastern and Greek civilizations are treated in the seminar on Greek culture.) The student examines the law and order of Rome, studies the Republic, the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of the Christian tradition. The course then surveys the religious and feudal societies of a world that saw itself as the scene of the drama of salvation. The next section deals with new interests that usher in the Modern Age: the Renaissance (Italian and Northern), and the Era of Exploration and Expansion of Europe. The student then studies the Reformation, and, finally, the beginnings of the scientific revolution, culminating with Francis Bacon and the Baconian spirit.


Possible sequence of topics:

  • Rome: law and order
  • The Republic and the Empire
  • The Christian tradition: Augustine, Dante, Bernard, Francis
  • Feudal societies: the knightly ideal, the guild system, the peasant's lot, the schools
  • The Renaissance: humanism, Erasmus, Boccaccio, Cervantes
  • The spirit of reform: Luther, Machiavelli, Loyola, Puritanism
  • Interests of the incipient modern, scientific age:
    Expansion of Europe through exploration
    Arabian science
    Attacks on scholasticism
    Anti-scientific basis of humanism
    Revival of Alexandrian mathematical science
    Francis Bacon
Recommended texts: Harrison, Sherman, and Sullivan, A Brief History of Western Civilization, Vol. 1 Wiesner, Ruff, and Wheeler, Discovering the Western Past, Vol. 2 Knoeble and Gochberg, Classics of Western Thought, Vols 1, 2. Recommended primary authors (other than those listed above), excerpts from whose works are used in conjunction with the history texts: Marcus Aurelius, Tacitus, Cicero, Apuleius, Juvenal, Livy, Horace, St. Benedict, Thomas Kempis, Catherine of Siena, Chaucer, Christine de Pisan, Petrarch, Maimonides, Thomas More, Rabelais, Vasari, Cellini, Montaigne, Calvin, Elizabeth I, and Teresa of Avila.