HIST 121: Western Civilization I
Fall 2008: 3 credits
Ed 112, 9:30-10:45 TTh

Mr Lehmann
Office hours: 11-12 TTh or by appointment
East Hall 210, 677-5573, clehmann@usd.eduhttp://www.usd.edu/~clehmann
Ms Geliga
Office hours: TTh 11-3
East Hall 215; 677-5999



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.    Finally, each student must maintain a portfolio containing all written work.  The portfolio will be a simple green two-pocket folder with the minithemes and exams as they are complete.

There will be a midterm exam 24 Sep, covering parts one and two of the course; another 5 Nov, 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.  Submit the paper inside your green binder.

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

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. Plato, Symposium

a) "Athenian Gender"
Describe the sorts of relations you see among men, women, and boys in terms of sexual behavior.  If you evaluate them, do so not only on your own terms but also on those of the ancient Athenians.

b) "An Athenian Party"
Describe the setting of The Symposium.  What was it like to go to a party in ancient Athens?  What sorts of things went on?  Was the symposium you read about typical or somehow unusual?  Try to work out what a typical symposium might have been like.

c) "Socrates"
Our understanding of this famous character depends almost entirely on the writings of Socrates' pupil Plato and a comedy by Aristophanes (whom you meet in The Symposium) called The Clouds.  What was this person like?  How do you reconcile his fame as a philosopher with his conduct as soldier, lover, partygoer, and conversationalist?

3. Apuleius, The Golden Ass

a) "Magic and Society"
What role does magic play in the novel?  How was it important in Roman society?  Who used it, how, and why?

b) "The World of the Pax Romana"
Gibbon said that the the best time in all of human history was the second century in the Roman Empire?  What features of the world depicted in the novel explain Gibbon's position?  In what ways was he wrong?

c)  "Men, Women, and Asses"
Charactize and compare the behavior of men and women and consider relations between them.

4. Letters of Abélard and Héloïse

a) "A Medieval Education"
Describe the character of a medieval education.  Consider curriculum, method of instruction, and availability.  How does it compare to your education (primary to university)?

b) "Women in the Middle Ages"
Consider the life-options available to Héloïse.  Considering those constraints, evaluate the decision she made to enter the religious life.

c) "Power and Politics"
By studying Abélard's biography, notice who had power over whom.  How could a person change his or her social and political relations to others and to the state.  Which were more important, personal connections or formal institutions?

5. Rabelais, Gargantua (read Gargantua only, not Pantagruel; ie, read pp 195-379 in Screeh's translation)

a) "A Humanist Education"
What do you think Rabelais considers bad about education in his time?  What would the ideal education be like?

b) "Sixteenth-Century Religion"
Although Rabelais seems deeply committed to Christianity, he freely satirizes many aspects of religion.  What are the problems with religious institutions, practices, and personnel in his time?

c) "Society and Politics in the Sixteenth Century"
What aspects of society and politics does Rabelais criticize?  Does he seem to approve of anything?


Part I: Introduction

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

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

8 Sept Chronology and Geography (handout)
10 Sept Prehistory and the Earliest Civilizations
15 Sept Mesopotamian Religion
17 Sept Israel, Yahweh, and History
22 Sept Disc: The Epic of Gilgamesh and the flood story from the Bible (first mini-theme due)
Slides: The City of Jerusalem

Part 3: Greece [Civilizations chs 3-4]

29 Sept Chronology and the Bronze Age (handout)
1 Oct The Homeric World
6 Oct Early Sparta and Athens
8 Oct Athenian Democracy and its Crises
13 Oct Disc: Plato, Symposium  (second mini-theme due)
15 Oct Slides: The City of Athens

Part 4: Rome [Civilizations chs 5-6]

20 Oct Chronology and Rome's Origins (handout)
22 Oct The Roman Constitution (handout on Polybius) and the Senatorial Aristocracy
27 Oct Roman Imperialism
29 Oct The Roman Revolution
3 Nov Disc: Apuleius, Golden Ass(third mini-theme due)
Slides: The City of Rome

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

10 Nov Chronology (handout); Rome and the Christians
12 Nov Byzantium and Islam
17 Nov Disc: Letters of Abélard and Héloïse (fourth mini-theme due)
19 Nov Medieval Society and Feudalism
24 Nov Medieval Renaissances
Slides: The City of Paris

Part 6: Renaissance and Reformation [Civilizations chs 12-14]

1 Dec Chronology; Renaissance Humanism (handout)
3 Dec The Church and its Reformers
8 Dec Disc: Rabelais, Gargantua (fifth mini-theme due)
10 Dec Slides: The City of Florence
15 Dec 7:30-9:30 AM: FINAL EXAMINATION

Statement of Compliance with the ADA: 

Any student who feels he or she may need academic accommodations or access accommodations based on the impact of a documented disability should contact and register with Disability Services during the first week of class.  Disability Services is the official office to assist students through the process of disability verification and coordination of appropriate and reasonable accommodations.  Students currently registered with Disability Services must obtain a new accommodation memo each semester. 
Ernetta L. Fox, Director
Disability Services, Room 119 Service Center
(605)677-6389; www.usd.edu/ds;


The College of Arts and Sciences considers plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty inimical to the objectives of higher education.  The College supports the imposition of penalties on students who engage in academic dishonesty, as defined in the “Conduct” section of the University of South Dakota Student Handbook.
No credit can be given for a dishonest assignment.  At the discretion of the instructor, a student caught engaging in any form of academic dishonesty 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.

Adopted by vote of the faculty
12 April 2005

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))

Regental and University policies

1. Freedom in learning. Students are responsible for learning the content of any course of study in which they are enrolled. Under Board of Regents and University policy, student academic performance shall be evaluated solely on an academic basis and students should be free to take reasoned exception to the data or views offered in any course of study. Students who believe that an academic evaluation is unrelated to academic standards but is related instead to judgment of their personal opinion or conduct should contact the dean of the college which offers the class to initiate a review of the evaluation.
2. If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Director of the Office of Disability Services, (Service Center 199; 677-6389) as early as possible in the semester.
3. No credit can be given for a dishonest assignment. At the discretion of the instructor, a student caught engaging in any form of academic dishonesty 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.