Fall 2012 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions
Description of Course:
LIT 3300.501 Western Literary Tradition: The Many Worlds of the West
No part of today's world, however far away or technologically different, is as truly alien to us as a past cultural period of our own, even quite a recent one. After all, every generation's world is invaded by a new wave of primitives, called human babies, with their own ideas about things. Yet western civilization, as diverse as it is, does have an intelligible history that makes some sense of the wild diversity of its successive epochs.
We are going to read "Great Books," texts in the so-called Western Canon, each of which represents the worldview of its time (partly because it helped to create that worldview). We will engage in the debates each one embodies and try to understand why it supplanted its predecessors and prepared for its successors.
(I will cut this list down to about 12 books and may substitute others)
Homer: The Odyssey
Sophocles: Oedipus the King
The Gospel of John
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight
Chaucer: The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
Milton: Paradise Lost
Pope: The Rape of the Lock
Austen: Pride and Prejudice
Wordsworth: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
Woolf: To the Lighthouse
Eliot: The Waste Land
Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:
The class will be conducted in a Socratic discussion format, with lively in-class essay quizzes on the reading. The reading will be large in volume but mostly accessible to a contemporary reader, with such satisfying characteristics as suspense, exciting plots, and engaging characters. Grades will be based on students' quiz essays and their contributions to class discussion. Regular and punctual attendance is a high priority. A term paper is optional.