Students planning to complete the Humanities Gateway Program in two semesters take four Humanities Gateway courses during the first year.
The required first-year sequence is as follows:
THEME FOR 2020-2021 — “Action and Reflection”
The two fall courses will focus on the action of those we deem hero and on changing conceptions of the heroic from classical and biblical antiquity to the present day. Their theme will be “Heroes and Anti-Heroes: Narratives in Biblical, Classical and Modern Contexts.” The two spring courses will focus on literary and philosophical writings that exemplify and also challenge the power of reflection – with particular focus on how the privileging of rational thought has served as both a tool and a weapon in a western tradition. Their theme will be “Reason and Its Discontents.”
Topic Heading: Heroes and Anti-Heroes: Narratives in Biblical, Classical and Modern Contexts
Topic Description: This two-course cluster of Humanities Gateway will introduce students to the various ways in which ancient Mediterranean cultures articulated concepts of “heroes.” By focusing on the narratives in which these heroes are embedded, this sequence will examine how these most important characters express critical aspects of the societies that produced them.
In the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus, Aeneas, and Jesus were heroic archetypes: of strength, of passion, of mind, of duty, and of wisdom. Our primary focus in this course will be investigating how ancient texts construct these characters as “heroes,” as well as how and why these characters and their narratives differ from one another. Readings may include the Shield of Herakles, the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and the New Testament. We will also compare these ancient conceptions of heroism to our modern understandings by discussing how and why these characters are depicted in modern media, such as the films Troy (Petersen 2004) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coens 2000). Vincent Tomasso
An examination of the crucial characters in biblical history, this course will explore the narratives surrounding Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. These texts will be analyzed in a historically sensitive fashion to demonstrate a series of opposing conclusions. If the distinct authorship of each story will be demonstrated, then so will thematic connections be shown to span across all four narratives. Moreover, as Abraham’s elevated status balances against God’s anger toward David, and Jesus’ redemption reverses the Israelites’ Egyptian bondage, all of these characters will be united by the unanticipated suffering that follows their election. By concentrating on such paradoxical alternations, this inquiry will seek to identify the peculiar set of characteristics that define biblical heroes and anti-heroes. Gabriel Hornung
Topic Heading: Reason and Its Discontents
Topic Description: In concert, the following two courses will closely examine certain literary and philosophical texts that prepare, exemplify, and challenge the ascendency of reason that characterized the history of the modern world from its very inception in ancient Greece. By exploring some of the cultural, socio-political, ethical, epistemological, and spiritual consequences of this emphasis on reason, students will receive a rich and broad exposure to many of the most important thinkers of the Western intellectual tradition.
This course traces the valorization of reason, science, and progress that occurs in European literature from the 18th century into the modern era. Some questions that will guide our engagement will be: what understanding of the human does such a vaunting of reason imply? What happens to religion and faith in the ‘Age of Reason’ and the modern era it helped shape? How can competing ethical, moral, or truth claims be understood if there is, indeed, a common, rational framework of understanding? What is lost, perhaps, when reason, science and progress reign unchallenged? Texts will include works from JW Goethe, Mary Shelley, Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Woolf, Elie Wiesel, and others. Julia Goesser Assaiante
Beginning with certain ancient Greek and Roman texts, the role of reason as a tool by which to rid the human mind of its epistemological prejudices, and its political bondage, will be explored. We will then examine certain key texts from the pre-modern and modern periods in which the power of reason is hypertrophied (e.g., Descartes). Then, we will turn to thinkers who call into question the power and legitimacy of reason (e.g., Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Solnit). Special consideration will be given to the following themes: 1) the ways in which each historical attitude toward reason entails loss of one kind or another (i.e., loss of self, loss of community, loss of god); 2) the manner in which the emphasis on reason has entailed the abject suffering of living creatures, both human and non-human alike; 3) the way in which the notion of a self-reliant, reasonable, ‘self-made man’ is a fiction whose fallacies have been sufficiently revealed by post-modernity. Shane Ewegen