HIST 121: Western Civilization I
Fall 2004: 3 credits
Churchill-Haines 118, 12:30-1:45

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

Mr Larson
Office Hours: 9-11 MWF or by appointment
East Hall 211, 677-5574


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. The goal of this course is for the student not only to acquire historical information but also to learn through example (lectures) and practice (discussions, essays, 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.  Many lectures involve visual material available on the instructor's Home Page. Students who expect to miss more than three 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 a midterm exam 23 September, covering parts one and two of the course; another 9 November, covering parts three and four; and a final exam 15 Dec, covering parts five and six. Exams consist of one long and a choice of two out of three short essay questions; the final exam includes a comprehensive essay question. 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 first midterm exam counts 50 points, the second 50, 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
193-165 D
164- F

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

See the end of the syllabus for additional information concerning cheating, ADA policy, and outcomes of learning.


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 instructors will return essays with special problems for rewriting.  Try to work a week in advance; your instructors will gladly evaluate and mark up your first clean draft and return it to you for rewriting in time for the final submission.

Unless you make special arrangements in advance or have a medical or family emergency, you must participate in the discussion in order to receive credit for a given paper.

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 (16 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. Hesiod, Works and Days (5 October)

a) "The Good Man"
What characteristics does Hesiod expect a good man to have?  In what ways does his brother fail to have those features?

b) "Town and Country"
Can you detect a confrontation between life on the farm and life in town?  Between rural and urban attitudes?  What are the differences and where do Hesiod's sympathies lie?

c) "Justice"
Describe the mechanism of justice as Hesiod understands it.  Does it depend on natural processes, intervention by the gods, or human institutions?

3. Aristophanes, The Clouds and Lysistrata (14 Oct)

a) "Aristophanes' Purpose." Cut through the comedy and try to determine what serious messages Aristophanes wants to convey to his audience, if any. What moral or social problems does he address?

b) "Aristophanes' Opposites." Identify some of the oppositions Aristophanes uses to comic effect in his plays, eg, male-female, young-old. Do these oppositions permit real criticism of Athenian society? Do they have relevance to other societies, such as your own?

c) "The Women of Aristophanes." Use the plays to illustrate the role Athenian women played in their society. Does Aristophanes intend to criticize that role? Does he want women to take Lysistrata as their role model for political life?

4. Virgilís Aeneid, books 1-8 (2 Nov)

a) "The Roman Hero"
What are the actions and moral qualities that make Aeneas a hero? How does Aeneas compare to Odysseus?

b) "Dido and Aeneas"
Was Aeneas right or wrong to leave Dido? Was she right or wrong to react so violently? As you evaluate their actions, try to put yourself into the shoes of the ancient Roman reader.

c) "Virgil and the Roman State"
How does Virgil use foreshadowing to exalt the Roman state of his own time? Isolate and comment on the specific relevant passages.

5. Joinville, The Life of Saint Louis (30 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 perceptions 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?



Part I: Introduction

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

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

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

Part 3: Greece [Civilization chs 3-4]

28 Sept Chronology and the Bronze Age (handout)
30 Sept The Homeric World
5 Oct Disc: Hesiod's Works and Days (second mini-theme due)
7 Oct Early Sparta and Athens
12 Oct Athenian Democracy and its Crises
14 Oct Slides: The City of Athens
Disc: Aristophanes, Clouds, Lysistrata (third mini-theme due)

Julius Caesar
by Wm Shakespeare

Oct. 20-23 at 8 p.m. & Oct. 24 at 2 pm, Wayne S. Knutson Theatre

Part 4: Rome [Civilization chs 5-6]

19 Oct Chronology and Rome's Origins (handout)
21 Oct The Roman Constitution (handout on Polybius) and the Senatorial Aristocracy
26 Oct Roman Imperialism
28 Oct The Roman Revolution
2 Nov Disc: Virgil, Aeneid (fourth mini-theme due)
4 Nov Slides: The City of Rome

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

16 Nov Chronology (handout); Rome and the Christians
18 Nov Byzantium and Islam
23 Nov Medieval Society and Feudalism
30 Nov Medieval Renaissances; disc: Joinville, The Life of Saint Louis  (fifth mini-theme due)

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

2 Dec Chronology; Renaissance Humanism (handout)
7 Dec The Church and its Reformers
9 Dec Slides: The City of Florence

Statement of Compliance with the ADA: 

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and Dr. Elaine Pearson, Director of the Office of Disability Serves (Service Center 119, 677-6389) as early as possible in the semester.  I will abide by the standards for compliance outlined on p23 of the student handbook as well as make every effort to provide a fair opportunity for involvement and success in this class.  Please see me if you require accommodation for a recognized disability while enrolled in this course.


 Because the entire educational process rests upon an atmosphere of academic honesty and trust, the College community must promote and protect the sanctity of such an environment at the University.  To that end, the College of Arts and Sciences considers the following infractions as being inimical to the objectives of higher education:

 Cheating is defined as intentionally using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or study aids in any academic exercise. (Student Conduct Code) 

 Plagiarism is defined as intentionally or knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one's own in any academic exercise. (Student Conduct Code)

 At the discretion of the instructor, a student caught cheating or plagiarizing may be:
          a.         Given a zero for that assignment.
          b.         Allowed to rewrite and resubmit the assignment for credit.
          c.         Assigned a reduced grade for the course.
          d.         Dropped from the course.
          e.         Failed in the course

This class fulfills the following Goals of the South Dakota System General Education Requirements: 

GOAL #4: Students will understand the diversity and complexity of the human experience through study of the arts and humanities

Student Learning Outcomes: As a result of taking courses meeting this goal, students will:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the diversity of values, beliefs, and ideas embodied in the human experience
    1. Essay exams treating cultural and historical problems raised in class and readings
    2. Mini-themes treating specific historical problems relevant to assigned works with historical and cultural content..
    3. In-class discussion of assigned works.
  2. Identify and explain basic concepts of the selected disciplines within the arts and humanities.
    1. Exam essays demonstrating historical analysis.
    2. Mini-themes demonstrating historical analysis.

In addition, as a result of taking courses meeting this goal, students will be able to do at least one of the following:

  1. Identify and explain the contributions of other cultures from the perspective of the selected disciplines within the arts and humanities
    1. Exams, mini-themes, class discussion
  2. Demonstrate creative and aesthetic understanding
    1. Exams, mini-themes, class discussion
  3. Explain and interpret formal and stylistic elements of the literary or fine arts
    1. Exam questions and discussion concerning works of literature and art; mini-themes on literary texts.
  4. Demonstrate foundational competency in reading, writing, and speaking a non-English language.
    1. NA

Each course meeting this goal includes the following student learning outcomes: Required: #1, #2 At least one of the following: #3, #4, #5, or #6 (Credit Hours: 6 hours (in 2 disciplines or a sequence of foreign language courses))