HIST 121: Western Civilization I
Fall 2017: 3 credits
Old Main 106, 9:30-10:45 TTh

Mr Lehmann
Office hours: 11-12 TTh or by appointment
East Hall 210, 677-5218,clehmann@usd.edu

Ms Kolbo
Office hours: 12-1 MWF or by appointment
East Hall 217, 677-5218, Eliza.Kolbo@coyotes.usd.edu


This is the first of a two-part survey of Western Civilization and introduces students to some of the leading figures, ideas, and events of the Ancient Near East and premodern Europe. The goal of this course is for students not only to acquire historical information but also to learn through example (lectures) and practice (discussions, exams, papers) a historical/critical method of thought and expression.

ELECTRONIC-DEVICE-FREE CLASSROOM. Turn off and stow your electronic devices before the class begins.

In order to do well in this course students must attend all lectures, taking careful notes, and read all assignments.  All lectures have visual material in PowerPoint format available by following the links in the daily schedule below. 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, a simple green two-pocket folder containing the mini-themes and exams as they are complete.

Grading depends on three components.

  1. Three exams: a midterm exam covering parts one and two of the course; a second midterm exam covering parts three and four; and a final exam 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. These are closed-book exams.
  2. Mini-themes: 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. See below for details. 
  3. Quick-response quizes: during the course of the semester the instructor will randomly administer six short-answer quizes over the material from the day of the quiz.
    The quick responses count 25 points (best of six @ 5 points); the first midterm exam counts 50 points, the second 50, and the final 75; and the mini-themes count 100 points (20 points each). The final grade depends on the points accumulated from a total of 300 possible points.

270-300 A
240-269 B
210-239 C
180-209 D
< 179 F

Students may view their current scores on the D2L course site. Those who wish to arrange another method of evaluation should see the instructor within the first two weeks.  For what not to do, consult the Top 10 Ways to Lower Your Grade in Humanities.

Click here for required statements concerning freedom of learning, cheating, diversity, ADA policy, and outcomes of learning.


The Mini-themes

Each mini-theme should be between 250 and 500 words long (one to two printed pages). 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 folder.

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.

Consult Mr Bockelman's classic Guidlines to Writing Mini-themes. "Be brief and tell us everything" (Charles Simic).

1. The Epic of Gilgamesh (the poem itself; the introduction is good but optional) and the Biblical Flood Story

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, Odyssey, books 1, 5-12

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. Aeschylus, Oresteia (all three plays; the introduction is good but optional)

a) "Greek Justice." As you read the plays think about why the characters suffer as they do. By what system of justice is it "just" that Clytemnestra kill Agamemnon, then that Orestes kill Clytemnestra, and finally that Orestes escape punishment?

b) "Tragic Women." Pay special attention to the women in these plays and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. What did the Greek (male) audience expect its women to be like, and how did the female characters fit or not fit the expectations?

c) "The Source of Justice." In these plays Aeschylus works out the nature and origin of justice. Where does he think it comes from--natural or divine or human sources?

4. Virgil, Aeneid, books 1-8

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. Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre

a) "Medieval Life." Describe the type of life people in the sixteenth century lived. Try to distinguish between the lives of different classes of people.

b) "The Success of Martin Guerre." How was Arnaud able to assume Martin's place? Think less of Arnaud's cleverness and more of the conditions that made people, esp Bertrande, accept him as Martin.

c) "The Failure of Martin Guerre." Why was Arnaud exposed? What motivated his enemies?

NB: Meet with the professor during his office hours or by appointment within the first month of classes

Part 1: Introduction

22 Aug
How we know about the past, and why we study it

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

24 Aug

Disc: Ancient Historians (read handout)
Chronology and Geography (handout)
; map of the Ancient Near East

29 Aug

Prehistory and the Earliest Civilizations: writing
Writing Center Presentation by Aaron Fleischer
; handouts: Workshop Schedule and Information Handout

31 Aug
Mesopotamian Religion
[Add/Drop period ends]
5 Sept
Israel, Yahweh, and History
7 Sept
Disc: The Epic of Gilgamesh (first mini-theme due)
Slides: The City of Jerusalem
12 Sept

Part 3: Greece [Civilizations chs 3-4]

14 Sept

Chronology and the Bronze Age (handout); maps of Greece and its settlements, Greece, and Alexander's Empire; Mycenae and the tholos tomb; the Chigi vase

19 Sept
Disc: The Odyssey (second mini-theme due)
21 Sept
The Homeric World
26 Sept
Early Sparta and Athens
28 Sept
Athenian Democracy and Its Crises
3 Oct
Disc: Oresteia (third mini-theme due)
5 Oct
Slides: The City of Athens

Part 4: Rome [Civilizations chs 5-6]

10 Oct
Chronology and Rome's Origins (handout)
12 Oct

The Roman Constitution (handout on Polybius) and the Senatorial Aristocracy

17 Oct
Roman Imperialism
19 Oct
The Roman Revolution
24 Oct
Disc: Aeneid (fourth mini-theme due)
26 Oct
Slides: The City of Rome
31 Oct

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

2 Nov

Chronology (handout); map of Early Medieval Europe, Charlemagne's Empire, and Late Medieval Europe

7 Nov
Rome and the Christians
Byzantium and Islam
9 Nov
Medieval Society and Feudalism
14 Nov
Medieval Renaissances
Slides: The City of Paris

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

16 Nov

Chronology (handout); maps of World Exploration, and XVI Europe; perspective drawing

21 Nov
Renaissance Humanism
22-26 Nov
Thanksgiving Recess
28 Nov
The Church and Its Reformers
30 Nov

Disc: Return of Martin Guerre

5 Dec
Slides: The City of Florence
Tuesday 12 Dec
7:30 - 9:30 am: FINAL EXAMINATION