Western Civilization I
Course Description and Schedule

HIST 121, Fall 2003
Section 015: 12:30PM - 01:45PM TTh
Churchill-Haines 118

Mr Lehmann
Office Hours: 10-11 TTh and by appointment
East Hall 210, 677-5573, clehmann@usd.eduhttp://www.usd.edu/~clehmann

This is the first of a two-part survey of Western Civilization and introduces the student to some of the leading figures, ideas, and events of the Ancient Near East and premodern Europe. It also exposes students to the concerns and methods of historical inquiry through lectures, analysis and discussion of selected texts, and writing of short papers.  The goal of this course is for the student not only to acquire historical information but also to learn through example (lectures, textbook) and practice (discussions, essay examinations, papers) a historical/critical method of thought and expression.

In order to do well in this course students must attend all lectures and read all assignments. Students who expect to miss more than two meetings should see the instructor within the first week. The readings and the mini-themes on them are especially important, and should be given ample time for reading, reflection, and writing. Students should secure all on-line handouts, which contain chronological and supplemental background to the lectures and readings.  A set of study questions, also available on-line, will assist the student preparing for examinations.

There will be midterm exams 25 Sept, covering parts one through two of the course, and 4 Nov, covering parts three and four, and a final exam 16 Dec, covering parts five to through six. Exams consist of one long and a choice of two out of three short essay questions.  Each student will write a mini-theme on a choice of suggested topics for each reading, due on the assigned date during discussion of the topics. The midterm exams count 50 points each, the final 75, and the mini-themes 100 points (20 points each), for a total of 275 possible points.

275-248 A
247-220 B
219-193 C
192-165 D
164- F

Students who wish to arrange another method of evaluation should see the instructor within the first week.  By all means consult the Top 10 Ways to Lower Your Grade in Humanities.


The Mini-themes

Each mini-theme should be between 250 and 500 words long (one to two pages), typewritten or carefully handwritten. It can earn up to 20 points as follows: 10 points for content (clarity of argument, familiarity with the work), 5 points for style (grammar, spelling, use of words), and 5 points for care in presentation.  The instructor will return essays with special problems for rewriting.

As you read the assignments keep all the suggested topics in mind, and take notes. Then pick one topic and answer it carefully and concisely. Feel free to consult with fellow students and with your instructor as you prepare the assignments, but the result must be entirely your own. Be particularly careful to avoid plagiarism; you must give references for every idea or quotation you borrow as you construct your argument. See Turabian, Manual for Writers, for the proper way to indicate references. At the head of your paper write the title and your name and staple your sheets together.

1. The Epic of Gilgamesh (23 Sept)

a) "The Search for Immortality"
How does Gilgamesh seek to attain immortality? What experience starts him on his quest? Is he successful? What immortality does Gilgamesh at last acquire?

b) "Nature and Civilization"
Focus on the character Enkidu in order to show the consequences of humanity's "fall" from a natural wild state into civilization. What is the role of the harlot in Enkidu's "fall"? What are the attributes of civilization? Is civilization a good thing? Is it inevitably at odds with nature?

c) "The Flood Story"
Compare the flood story in Gilgamesh with that in the book of Genesis. Notice the similarities, but concentrate especially on differences, particularly the difference between the motivation and actions of the Mesopotamian gods and the Hebrew God.

2. Homer's Odyssey, books 1, 5-12 (2 Oct)

a) "The Greek Hero"
What characteristics does Odysseus have that so impress the Phaeacians? What do you have to do, what do you have to be like, to be a real Greek hero?

b) "The Role of Women"
What part do the various women you meet in the Odyssey play in Greek society? Are they active or passive, public or private, or do some take a different kind of role from others? Why?

c) "The Role of the Gods"
Analyze the part the gods play in the Odyssey. Are the gods active or passive? Are they like human beings? or more "supernatural"? Are they like or unlike the Mesopotamian and Hebrew gods?  

3. Aescylus, Libation Bearers, and Euripides, Trojan Women (14 Oct).  USD Theater performs Trojan Women 3-7 Dec.

a) "Human Will, Divine Justice."  What impels Orestes to act?  What consequences will the Greeks experience because they destroyed Troy?  Do Aeschylus and Euripides show that there are powers that affect the world and human action, powers that no human being can withstand?

b) "The Nature of Vengeance."  As the Greeks thought about it, is vengeance an impersonal, cosmic force, or one individual's psychological state?

c) "The Apology of the Powerless."  What arguments can the powerless make against the arbitrary violence of the powerful?  Do the arguments have force?  As you work through Aeschylus's and Euripides' views on this issue, ask yourself why women figure so prominently in these plays.

4. Joinville, The Life of Saint Louis (18 Nov)

a) "Motivating Crusaders." Why did King Louis, Joinville, and the others go on crusades? Try to identify unspoken as well as explicit motives, and rank them in importance.

b) "Christians and Saracens." How did each religious group perceive the other? Do you think their preceptions were accurate?

c) "Feudal Politics." Describe Louis's "government." How did Louis make decisions? To what extent was the king "in charge"? Why did his subjects obey him?

5. Calderón de la Barca, Life Is a Dream (xxx)

a) "The Stars: Influence or Necessity."  Calderón shares with other Renaissance artists an interest in the extent to which the individual controls his or her own destiny.  To what extent is Segismundo in control of his fate?  To what extent can Basilio control his destiny?

b) "Absolutism."  Active under the absolutist rule of the seventeenth-century Spanish king, Calderón reflects the political thinking of his time.  Note the ways that Basilio and Segismundo think about their royal power and how other characters react to it.  Where does power come from?  What makes it legitimate?  How extensive is it?  Is it a product of human action or natural law?

c) "Love and Honor."  Calderón often treated the theme of conflict between love and honor in his plays.  Consider especially the story of Rosaura and how the men around her, including Segismundo, Astolfo, and Clotaldo react to her in the various guises of love (romantic, erotic, familial), and how feelings of love come into conflict with expectations about the proper behavior of men and women of high status with social and political responsibilities.



Part I: Introduction

4 Sept How we know about the past, and why we study it
Disc: Ancient Historians (read handout)

Part 2: The Ancient Near East [Western Civilization chs 1-2]

9 Sept Chronology and Geography (handout)
11 Sept Prehistory and the Earliest Civilizations
16 Sept Mesopotamian Religion
18 Sept Israel, Yahweh, and History
23 Sept Disc: The Epic of Gilgamesh and Biblical Flood Story (first mini-theme due)
Slides: The City of Jerusalem

Part 3: Greece [Western Civilization chs 3-4]

30 Sept Chronology and the Bronze Age  (handout); The Homeric World
2 Oct Disc: Homer Odyssey (second mini-theme due)
7 Oct Early Sparta and Athens
9 Oct Athenian Democracy and its Crises
14 Oct Slides: The City of Athens
Disc: Euripides Bacchae (third mini-theme due)

Part 4: Rome [Western Civilization chs 5-6]

16 Oct Chronology and Rome's Origins  (handout)
21 Oct The Roman Constitution (handout on Polybius) and the Senatorial Aristocracy
23 Oct Roman Imperialism
28 Oct The Roman Revolution
30 Oct Slides: The City of Rome;

Part 5: The Middle Ages [Western Civilization chs 7-11]

6 Nov Chronology (handout)
13 Nov Rome and the Christians
18 Nov Byzantium and Islam; disc: Joinville, The Life of Saint Louis (fourth mini-theme due)
20 Nov Medieval Society and Feudalism
25 Nov Medieval Renaissances

Part 6: Renaissance and Reformation [Western Civilization chs 12-13]

2 Dec Chronology (handout)
3-7 Dec USD Theater, Trojan Women
4 Dec Renaissance Humanism
9 Dec The Church and Its Reformers
11 Dec Slides: The City of Florence; disc: Calderón de la Barca, Life Is a Dream (fifth mini-theme due)