Seton Hall University Honors Program

HONS 1001 AA and BB Colloquium on Classical Civilizations
CORE 1101 HA, HB, HC, HD Journey of Transformation
Fall 2012
The class meets in Fahy Hall, Room 101 (AA) and 108 (BB)
Sections of CORE 1101 also meet in Fahy Hall 307 (HA) and 301 (HD)

 December 6, 2012 version; stay tuned for further revisions

We will never bring disgrace on this our Polis by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.
We will fight for the ideals and Sacred Things of the Polis, both alone and with many.
We will revere and obey the laws of the Polis, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us
who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.
We will strive increasingly to quicken the public's sense of civic duty.
Thus in all these ways we will transmit this Polis, not only not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.
The oath of citizenship taken by the young men of Athens when they reached the age of seventeen.

Peter Ahr
Office: Fahy Hall 305
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1-2; and by appointment
Telephone: (973) 761-9741

Frederick Booth
Office: Fahy 246B
Office Hours: Monday 10:30-11:30; Tuesday and Thursday 12:15-12:45; and by appointment
Telephone: (973) 761-9458

Colleen Conway
Office: Fahy 327
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 12:30-2; Tuesday 4-4:45; and by appointment
Michael Mascio
Office: Fahy 232
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 2-3 p.m.
Telephone: (973)275-2124

Course Description

The world we live in has been decisively shaped by ideas, images, and modes of thought that developed in several parts of the world in the millennium before the beginning of the Common Era. The heritage of Moses, Homer, Kung Fu Tse, Lao Tse, Akhenaten, Isaiah, the Hindu sages, Gautama Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Aristophanes, Euripides, Vergil, Jesus, Paul, Plotinus and Augustine continue to shape our world; for they were key figures in civilizations that subsequent generations have regarded as "classical" -- models on which they strove to model their own worlds. In this colloquium we will be examining these ideas and modes of thought in an effort to discern the themes which still inform our world, and so reclaim these ideas as classical for ourselves as well.

There are several key issues that run through earlier human civilizations; we hope to illuminate these discussions in our own encounter with thinkers who dealt with them. One of these is the question of how human knowledge originates, and how it is passed down; and whose responsibility it is to do so. Another longstanding human issue is that of the nature of human community: what is the community, and how is authority in the community understood? Who has authority, and on what basis? How is power understood, and how is it manifested? What is the family community? What does it mean to be male? to be female? In all of these discussions there arises in one way or another the question of what is the Ultimate; who or what are the powers that govern human and earthly affairs?

We hope that, by the end of the semester, you will have an understanding of some key texts of global cultures that are the foundations of the world we live in. These "classical" texts themselves arose out of earlier developments, and it will be helpful to understand that background as well. They represent answers, sometimes tentative and sometimes authoritative, to the questions which animated those cultures; many of these questions are still ones we grapple with, and our own understanding can be illuminated by seeing how others have dealt with them.

In dealing with these broad questions, we will also be working on your own habits of mind. We know already that you are curious; we hope to expand the horizons of your curiosity. In working with primary texts, you will be grappling directly with minds other than yours; part of the excitement of this effort is discovering how the world looks to others, and how that view of the world can directly challenge our own assumptions. In doing this discovery, you will need to pay attention, not only to what those texts say, but also to what they assume, and to what they do not think to say. This kind of critical thinking will give you a standpoint from which to analyze the validity of the writer's argument, the strength of its evidence, the cogency of its ideas, and its connection to the social world from which it arises. In turn, you will be asked to reflect your understanding in different kinds of writing assignments which will allow you to think and communicate on paper. If you find writing still a challenge, you may want to look up the many resources our English Department offers.

Our work is a work in common; we are reading on our own, but also thinking together about what we have read. We will have to listen carefully to each other, realizing that each of us has contributions to what we are learning. We expect that the discussions we have in class are just the beginning of further conversations you have with each other outside of class as well; we need to pay attention, not only to the content of our conversations, but also to the ways in which we are engaging in them. This common intellectual journey is the heart of the university learning experience, and the most lasting joy you will take from this entire experience.

We begin the Honors Program with two three-credit courses: the Colloquium on Classical Civilizations and sections of the University Core Curriculum course, Journey of Transformation. This syllabus contains the materials for both courses. We will be teaching you in the Journey sections, which you will be taking with your classmates in the Honors Program. Professor Ahr's CORE 1101 HA section will combine with Professor Mascio's CORE HC section into HONS 1001 AA. Likewise, Professor Booth's CORE 1101 HB section will combine with Professor Conway's HD section into HONS 1001 BB. CORE 1101 will normally meet from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45; its contents will appear in red. HONS 1001 will normally meet from 10:00 to 11:15; its contents will be in blue. All the things you will have to do, for both courses, appear in green in this syllabus. Hypertext links to on-line texts are in olive.


This course satisfies the requirements for both the Critical Thinking and the Reading/Writing proficiencies, which are required as part of the University Core Curriculum. In addition to the content, subject matter, and themes of the course, it is also crucial to develop those skills and practices that help us to develop our abilities to read carefully, understand precisely, and articulate our insights clearly. Not only are these skills cross-disciplinary; they are an essential component in our development as intelligent persons.
To satisfy the requirements for the Reading/Writing proficiency a course must include a significant amount of writing (both formal and informal) along with an expectation that there will be several hours of academic reading per week. Approximately 80% of the course grade will be based upon writing, whether in the form of papers, short assignments, quizzes, or exams. The requirements for this Colloquium have been designed with this goal in mind. Readings for the course are taken almost entirely from primary sources. This is based on the conviction that it is good to read and analyze the authors' own words, rather than beginning with what others have written about them. A goal of the course is to increase your ability and confidence in being able to read and analyze primary texts. See below under "Course Objectives and Requirements" for more details. You will need The Bedford Handbook as a basic reference for all your writing assignments.

It is one thing to run your eyes over the words on a page; it is quite another to read attentively and critically. The Critical Thinking proficiency is geared toward developing your abilities to understand and think through the course readings. (See this discussion of the skills involved.)  This means, among other things, learning to read texts carefully, being able to follow the author's train of thought, becoming attentive to nuance within a text, and being able to articulate your insights clearly and precisely, both in your writing and in class discussion. Critical thinking also means raising questions about what an author has to say. Is the author's point convincing? Why or why not? How does a particular author's point of view compare with that of another author dealing with the same issue? Who do you think is right? Not only is critical thinking an essential component in reading texts; it is also necessary to apply to your own writing, so that what you write comes across as clear, well-organized, and coherent. A number of course assignments are aimed at helping you develop the practice of critical thinking. As a help to improve your ability to think critically, you will receive a copy of Richard Paul and Linda Eller's The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2009 ISBN 978-0-944583-10-4). It is a very handy summary of the criteria for critical thinking; we will be making use of these critieria in evaluating course work. Your growing mastery of this kind of thinking is a significant part of the learning we expect you to be doing; you will be graded in part on how well you master this art. Our assignments and exams are all opportunities to develop your critical reasoning; class discussions are yet another such opportunity. It is no accident that we will begin the courses with Plato's Symposium; it is a model of how we learn from intelligent listening and discussion, and a model of how we mean to proceed.

Course objectives, grading policies, reading list and other resources are to be found at the bottom of the page, after the course schedule.

Course Schedule


Apollo, from the west front of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia
Welcome to the Honors Program for both CORE 1101 and HONS 1001

Introduction to the course: The Symposium. What does it mean to be a learner? a thinker? a critical reader? Indeed, what do you hope or expect to get out of your university education? For this introduction, we will first meet in our CORE sections to get to know each other; then we will all meet in the HONS section. We will begin our semester together with a discussion of Plato’s Symposium; be sure you come to class having read it, and indeed discussed it with your classmates. In today's class we will be exploring ways in which we can best learn from each other by listening carefully to each other and by looking carefully at what's before us.

Writing assignment, due at the next class: Please read and review the syllabus carefully, paying particular attention to the course description above, and to the course objectives and requirements below. Reflecting on these statements, introduce yourself to us as a learner. How best do you learn? What do you anticipate being a challenge for you? In what ways would you like to improve? Write us a one-page letter and post it on the Discussion Board for the Colloquium in Blackboard.

Krater showing Sarpedon carried away by Sleep, Death and Hermes, signed by Euxitheos the potter and Euphronios the painter c. 515 BCE

Acropolis at sunrise

Plato's Symposium

Before you read: imagine yourself at a late night party with some close friends. You begin talking about love. You find that each of you speaks about love in a different way. Jot down some notes about what you would say about love.

After you read: Consider both the structure and content of the reading. Come to class prepared to discuss the following questions, and
post some thoughts on them in your first Journal entry in the Blackboard Journey course:

Structure: The characters in the Symposium are exploring a weighty topic together. How did they interact with one another? Is the ”symposium” an effective means of education? Why or why not? Is this a real conversation, or is it just a literary device of Plato's?

Content: Which of the speeches was most different from your own imagined discussion regarding love? How was it different? Which one was closest? In what way?

There are three main goals of the journal assignment.

1. To provide opportunity for reflection and integration of the course material at a personal level.
2. To provide a place to practice and improve your writing skills.
3. To have regular contact with the professor regarding your thoughts and ideas about what you are learning.

It is up to you to decide on what you want to write about for each entry. However, you must choose to discuss something related to the course. This means you can reflect on what you are learning from reading the assigned text, or from class discussion, or from your discussing the text with your classmates. Whatever you choose, we should be able to tell that you are taking the course when we read your journal entry. Also, work hard to avoid simply summarizing the reading. You can do that in your reading notes. The point of the journal is to think about the material and to let us know what you're thinking. What are you learning? We often suggest some questions in the syllabus; these questions are not necessarily the ones we want you to answer in your journal, but are suggestions as to what kind of questions you want to work with. What questions occur to you, and what insights have you gained through engagement with the course material? This is also the place that you can consider the implications of what you are reading/learning, and ways that these texts might intersect with your own life and community.

We expect you to write as cogently as possible in your journals. Of course, we expect you to write in formal English, with complete sentences; this is not a text message. We also expect to see improvement in your critical thinking and writing skills over the course of the semester reflected in your journals. We will provide regular feedback including suggestions on ways to improve. Please read this feedback and use it to strengthen your work.

You should write your journal entries in Word and then cut and paste them into the Journey Blackboard site. Do this by clicking on the button marked Journal that is listed on the left of the Blackboard site for our course. After clicking on Journal, click on the Create Journal Entry for the appropriate date and paste your work into the window. Please don't "attach" it to the entry. Be sure you are posting for the right date!

Read before class:

  • Plato, Symposium 

In the Honors class we will continue this discussion of the Symposium. Do the various speakers in the text learn from each other? What do you make of Aristophanes' account of the nature of love? What is he really describing? What do you make of Socrates' speech? Remember, they are all speaking of eros, which does mean "love" in the sense in which we use it, but also means "desire." We will see various understandings of this idea through the semester; what do you make of Socrates' account? Is is about "love" or "desire"? Is there a difference? Socrates' speech is one of the seminal texts in the history of thought, and we will see these ideas time and again; what do you make of it?

You might want to take a look at this version of Aristophanes' speech.

First writing assignment due.


Socrates The Louvre

Marduk and Tiamat

Continued discussion of Plato's Symposium

What do the various characters in the discussion have to say about what it means to be human? Is desire essential to their understanding of human experience? Is "love" in our sense essential to their understanding? What is the basis of my relating to others? Does love/desire bring me outside myself? Is that a good thing? Why? How do we develop human community on this basis? What do you make of the "platonic ascent" from seeing beautiful things and persons to contemplating Beauty Itself? Do you recognize this ascent from other contexts?
What to you is the most valuable insight you have had from thinking about the Symposium?

Foundation Stories: Who are we and where do we come from?

Several of the speeches in the Symposium account for love in the form of a foundation myth; certainly Aristophanes' speech does so. How do other foundation stories similarly seek to interpret human existence as they know it? We will look at several such accounts.
What physical picture of the world do you imagine based on the meaning of the names of the gods at the beginning of the creation epic?
How does the young gods' behavior affect Tiamat, Apsu and Mummu? What do each of them think about the problem?
Consider the family relationships in Enuma Elish. Why is the discord such an important element in the story? What do these relationships tell us about the culture of the myth keeper?
Who alone will face Tiamat? Why does he think he can defeat her? What does this tell you about Mesopotamian culture? What do you think the defeat of Tiamat might mean?
Why do you suppose the gods are depicted as getting drunk when they make the decision to give Marduk supreme power?
Of what were humans made? Why? What about in the Atrahasis? How and why were humans made in this text?
Compare the type of god used to make human beings in the Enuma Elish with the kind of god used in Atrahasis. Do we get a different view of the relationship between human beings and gods?
Why do you think the city of Babylon was created right after human kind?  What does that tell you about Babylon?

Read before class:

  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 4-28  (1-23 in the 9th edition)
  • Atrahasis, Myths from Mesopotamia, pp. 1-38
  • Enuma Elish (The Epic of Creation), Myths from Mesopotamia, pp. 233-277

First essay assignment: Choose one of the origins stories we are studying, other than the texts from Genesis. What does this story tell the ancient audience about the world? How should the listener live in the world as a result of this knowledge? Formulate a clear thesis, and support your argument with textual evidence. This paper should be about three pages in length. Click on this link for our guidelines on how your papers are to be graded. This assignment is due on September 20.


Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher

The Creation of Adam
Michelangelo, The Sistine Chapel

Setting the questions: The Second Vatican Council's decree ”Nostra Aetate”

This groundbreaking document from the fourth session of the Second Vatican Council in 1965 represents a dramatic reformulation of the Catholic Church's understanding of other religious traditions. Its section on the Church and the Jewish people was largely drafted by Seton Hall professor Monsignor John M. Oesterreicher.
The questions of meaning that this document raises in its first section are the central themes of this course as well: what does it mean to be human? What is the meaning and purpose of life? As you read it, reflect on your own religious and cultural understanding of the "others", whoever they may be. To what extent do you think this document sets an agenda for finding common ground with others? To what extent do you see it as problematic? Why? How much of it strikes you as "news"?

Before you come to class, write a paragraph or two in your Journal, giving your first answers to some of these questions. After class, go back to your Journal and add a paragraph or two on how your thinking has changed as a result of our discussion.

Read before class:

Foundation Stories

Who are we and where do we come from? What do these stories tell us about the self-understandings of the people who told these stories, and of those who collected them? What do they say one should do? What do they say it means to be human? How should society be organized? Why?

Genesis 1-11 is a collection of stories that biblical scholars have named “the primeval history” because they are stories about ancient origins. Note that this part of the Bible is not called “primeval” because it is the oldest part of the Bible. In fact, most scholars think that this collection of stories did not come together in its current state until after the Babylonian exile of the Judeans, perhaps in the 5th or even 4th century BCE. To be sure, the material here draws on earlier versions of some of these stories. For instance, the story of Adam and Eve in the garden may have been told in the 10th century BCE. On the other hand, the seven day creation account of Gen 1:1-2:4a likely dates to a later period. This means when we read Gen 1-11, rather than thinking of it as a straightforward account of the origins of the universe, we should consider what the storytellers and the later compilers of this material wanted to say about the nature of the world, of humankind, of the God/human relationship, and so on.

Read before class:

  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 64-68 (56-61 9th ed.)
  • Genesis 1-11
  • Hesiod selections (in Course Documents on Blackboard)

The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Indra and Agni, 10th century Indian
Surwaya, Madhya Pradesh

Yajna fire ritual to Agni

Galaxy Cluster Abell 370, photographed by the Hubble telescope.  Notice the light bent by the curvature of space-time.

Socrates' Apology

Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.) was Plato's teacher. In the course of great civil unrest in the years following Athens' defeat in the Peloponnesian War, he was brought to trial on charges of introducing foreign gods and of leading the youth of Athens astray. The Apology was apparently composed not long after Socrates' death; it presents itself as Socrates' defense against the charges levied against him, and his speech to the jury after he was found guilty. (The "apologia" is the formal reply to charges, the speech for the defense; it's not an "apology" in the modern sense of expressing regret for wrongdoing.) He was sentenced by the jury to execution. The text indicates that Plato was present at the trial; other dialogues suggest that Plato himself was also present at Socrates' death. The issues of truth and justice that the death of Socrates posed remained central issues in Plato's thought.

Do you think Socrates was "wise"? Why? What might "wisdom" be? What passages in his speech strike you as particularly noteworthy? What's there that surprises you? Why? Socrates says (38a) that "the unexamined life is not worth living for men." Do you agree with him? Why or why not? What if he is right? What do you think of his reaction to his impending death? Why? What do you make of Socrates' final comment? How does Socrates know what he knows? Can you know that way? Should you? What should you do? How can you get to the transcendently true? How do you know? What can we learn from Socrates' search for truth?

Before you come to class, write two or three paragraphs in your Journal in Blackboard with your first reflections on today's reading.

Read before class

  • Plato's Apology, Crito (The Last Days of Socrates)

Recommended additional reading:

  • Plato, Euthyphro, Phaedo

Foundation Stories: Vedic Ritual and Epic Knowledge

Who are we and where do we come from? The Rig Veda was composed somewhere between 1700 B.C.E. and 1100 B.C.E.; it consists of a number of hymns which were recited as part of rituals for centuries before they took written form, probably in late antiquity. The Rig Veda gives us insight into ancient Indian thought about the nature of human life and of human society; it also stands as a foundation of later Indian thought on these and many other topics. We might ask: who am "I" in the Vedic texts? What does one do? What is the goal? Does the Rig Veda give a different understanding of the world than the other texts we have been reading? How? In what way is it different?  What is the place of Agni, the god of fire and fire sacrifice?  of Varuna, the god of water, sky and law?  What does Purusha say about your place in the universe?   How does the Rig Veda's world look different from yours? How is it similar? What is the nature of the similarities you see? 

Outside of the Vedic textual traditions, other streams of stories and myths were circulating and developing in India from the late first millennium, BCE into the late millennium, CE. These collections incorporated folk traditions, local histories, and new cults focused on minor gods from the earlier Vedic corpus, particularly the god Vishnu. These traditions were compiled in the great epic poems of India, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. In these massive collections, new ideas rubbed shoulders with classic Vedic ideals, and their stories would in turn become the feeder stories for the next generation of Hindu texts, the Puranas (c. 300 to 1000 CE).

A good example of this is this excerpt from the Mahabharata (Book 3, "Vana Parva", section 189). The story is set within the overall narrative of the period of the virtuous Pandava brothers’ exile in the forest for 13 years (and before the actual war that occasions the Bhagavad Gita). There, their righteous submission to the austerity of such exile, as well as their heroic bearing in general, wins for them a visit from the great sage Markandeya, who is celebrated for his encyclopedic knowledge and wisdom. They ask him many questions about the origin of the world, the nature of reality, and the essentials of upright behavior. Here, they ask for a description of the current world age, the fourth of four that are part of the eternal cycle of creation and dissolution of all things in Vishnu, the supreme being, who gave this revelation to the sage. Note the cosmic pessimism about the future of this age, when all things will devolve into "mleccha", which is basically undifferentiated scum.

What are the characteristics of the four ages (yugas) and how are they related? What is the real crisis of the Kali Yuga, according to Markendeya? How does it relate to the Vedic tradition? How does the Indian understanding of time as endlessly cyclical, with neither absolute beginning nor absolute end, change your understanding of these texts ?
Read before class:

Part of this class will be devoted to the formulation of a good thesis statement. Come to class with the thesis you are planning to use for your next paper, so that you can get feedback on your thesis before you begin writing. The "Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking" may help you work your way towards a thesis on the text you have chosen. You are encouraged to critique each other's papers while you are still writing. If you are having problems, consult one of your professors, or go to the Writing Center.


The Temple of Apollo at Delphi; the Oracle was inside the temple.

Yama, the Lord of Death

Further discussion of questions raised by Plato in the Apology and the Crito

How does Socrates know what he knows? Can you know in that way? Do you see yourself as a "self" in the same way as Socrates did? Should you? What does it mean to be an educated person? Can you separate job skills from yourself? Is it enough to become a "professional"? How can your education contribute to the non-professional part of your future? What will you do with the rest of your life?

How can we construct a just society? What makes society just? What do these two texts say about the citizen's responsibility to the law? about your responsibility to yourself?

Read before class:

  • Plato's Apology, Crito (The Last Days of Socrates)
  • Aristophanes, The Clouds

Foundation Stories: The Upanishads

The Upanishads as texts were conceived and preserved within the main Vedic schools, but represent a philosophical shift away from the strict ritualism of sacrifice of the classic Vedic tradition. Although many Upanishads are indeed ancient, the Katha Upanishad is now held to be mid to late 1st millenium BCE, dating from somewhere between 500 and 200 B.C.E. It gives us a different ancient Indian thought about the nature of human life and of human society. What do "I" learn from death in the Katha Upanishad? What does one do? What is the goal? What is the nature of the self, of the "I" that this text propounds? How does it differ from other understandings of the self that we have already seen?

Read before class:


Moses and the Red Sea
3rd century fresco, Synagogue, Dura Europos

Krishna and Arjuna

Foundation Stories: Exodus

The Book of Exodus contains the stories that constitute the foundation myth of the Hebrew people, comparable in intent to the American stories of the Revolution. They tell of events which can probably be dated to the mid-13th century B.C.E., but whose meaning is to be found in the ongoing life of the people. They have their origins in oral storytelling, and probably did not take written form until about the 6th century B.C.E.
What do these stories teach about what it means to be "us"? What picture of the divine do they convey? How do they present themselves as guides to the ongoing life of the community?

Read before class:

  • Exodus, chapters 1-15; 19-24

Before you come to class, write two or three paragraphs in your Journal in Blackboard with your first reflections on today's reading.

Heroes and Models: The Bhagavad Gita: How does one act? What basis does one have for choosing a way of action?

What is this story about? What do you find most surprising about it? What do you find hardest to understand? What do you find surprisingly familiar? Why? What does the storyteller want you to do? to think? What does Krishna say the self is? Why is self-understanding important? How does one get there? What in Krishna's teaching do you find agreeable? What of it do you find difficult? How does Krishna's teaching differ from others we have seen? How is it similar? How does it critique the worldview of the Vedas and the Katha Upanishad?

Read before class:


Krishna revealing himself to Arjuna

The Bhagavad Gita: How does one act? What basis does one have for choosing a way of action? Discussion continued

How does Krishna reveal what he himself is? What does Krishna say the self is? How does that understanding of the self serve as a basis of action? Why is self-understanding important? How does one get there? What in Krishna's teaching do you find agreeable? What of it do you find difficult? How does Krishna's teaching differ from others we have seen? How is it similar? How does it critique the worldview of the Vedas and the Katha Upanishad? How does it respond to the worldview espoused by the Buddha? How does the Gita understand That Which is Ultimate? What consequences does it suggest that follow from that understanding?

We will spend the entire morning in discussion of this key text.

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your reflections on the Gita.

Read before class:

First essay due. Bring two paper copies to class.



Gilgamesh and Enkidu killing the Bull of Heaven

Heroes and Models: Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is the protagonist of a number of ancient Mesopotamian stories which appear to have been widespread in the ancient Near East. What does the story say about the difference between civilization and the wild? What is the natural world? What is the importance of friendship in the story? What do you make of Gilgamesh's reaction to the death of Enkidu? What do you make of the flood story? What does "immortality" mean?

Read before class:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh, Myths from Mesopotamia, pp. 39-125 

Ancient Heroes and Anti-heroes: The Iliad

Gilgamesh and Achilles raise the question of what it means to be a "hero." In what sense do they represent a cultural ideal? What kind of ideal do they represent? Are they meant to be imitated? revered? Why?

Read before class:

  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 86-94 (74-87 9th ed.)
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh, Myths from Mesopotamia, pp. 39-125
  • The Essential Iliad, Books 1-3, 6

Achilles fighting Hektor  Attic vase, c. 490 B.C.E.

Odysseus and the Sirens 
Attic red-figure stamnos, c. 480 B.C.E.

Heroes and Models: The Iliad

Who is the hero? What is a hero? Is the hero an "I"? In what sense is Achilles the hero of the Iliad? Is Achilles responsible for his wrath? Who are the gods in the story? Why does the poem begin with Achilles' wrath, but conclude with Hektor's funeral rites? What in this poem made it the story all Greeks knew and remembered? What part of the poem do you find most compelling? Why?

Read before class:

  • The Essential Iliad, Books 9, 14, 16, 18-24

Heroes and Models: The Odyssey

What in this poem made it so precious to the Greeks? What made Odysseus such a culture hero? What does that tell us about the people who treasured this poem? What values does it convey, and how?

Read before class:

  • The Essential Odyssey, Books 1-13

The story of Abraham  6th century San Vitale, Ravenna

Sappho  1st century Roman
National Archaeological Museum, Istanbul

Heroes and Models: Abraham and Ruth

The story of Abraham is another ancient origins story; Abraham is in the Hebrew, Christian and Muslim traditions the archetypal figure of the obedient servant of God. His journey of faith is presented as a model for believers to follow, in all three traditions. Ruth is similarly presented as a model woman. A non-Hebrew, she nevertheless chooses to remain with her late husband's family and people, and so becomes an ancestor of King David.
What lessons are meant to be drawn from the stories of these two people?

Read before class:

  • The Story of Abraham, Genesis 12-25
  • Ruth, chapters 1-4


Heroes and Models: The Self and the Polis

Read before class:

  • Odyssey, Books 16-24
  • Greek lyric poetry (in Blackboard)
  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 94-101 (87-91 9th ed.)

We will also be beginning your preparation for our midterm exam.  Go to the class site on Blackboard and find "Midterm Exam Material" on the menu.  In that wiki, post names, places, things, ideas, themes from the first half of the Colloquium (the big class section) .  We will refine that list in the class of October 2, and begin developing essay questions for the exam.  Come to class with potential essay questions in mind. 

Second essay assignment: close reading and analysis of a text. Choose one of the following texts and analyze the main themes in this text, paying attention to the context, language, tone, voice, metaphors, meaning contained in it. Out of this analysis, develop and argue a thesis about the meaning of one of these themes. This paper should also be about three pages in length; you are encouraged to critique each other's writing before handing it in. This assignment is due on October 25.

  • Iliad, Bk. 9, lines 415-441
  • Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, stanzas 19-23
  • Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet I, iv (pp. 55-56)

Buddha   Sarnath Deer Park
4th century C.E.

Avalokiteshvara   13th century Tibetan
The Newark Museum

The Buddha and Buddhist teachings

Siddhartha Gautama (traditionally 566 - 486 B.C.E., although some modern scholars date him about a century later) is known to us as the Buddha, the Awake One. At his enlightenment at the age of 35, he came to understand what he taught as the Four Noble Truths: that all life is suffering (dukkha), that the cause of suffering is desire, that suffering can be ended, and that the way to end suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation. This "Middle Way", between bodily indulgence and harsh physical asceticism, focuses on the concentration of the mind to a proper understanding of reality. He spent the rest of his life teaching this dharma (truth, teaching, thing); his teachings were collected orally after his death, and much later reduced to writing. During his lifetime, he gathered thousands of followers, who adopted his mendicant style of living; these bhikkus (monks) were his first sangha, or community.

The three texts for this class purport to represent the actual teaching of the historical Buddha, who was roughly a contemporary of Socrates. "Buddha" means literally "awake"; these teachings explain how life looks when you are truly awake to the real. 

What in these texts do you find challenging? What is utterly unfamiliar to you? What are you comfortable with? How do these texts differ from your own understanding? Why? What do these texts want you to think? to do? How do they accomplish this? What do they take for granted that you do not? What difference does this make in your ability to grasp them? Who are "you" in these texts? How should you act? Why? How are the Buddha's answers similar to those we have seen? In what ways is the Buddha critiquing earlier Indian ideas, such as we have already seen? How are they different? What does suffering mean? How does one find meaning in it? What is freedom? What is important in life? In what ways is the Buddha's teaching a critique of social norms? How does his teaching challenge your own self-understanding? Why?

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.

Read before class:

The Buddha and Buddhist teachings: The Heart Sutra

About the beginning of the Common Era, the monastic form of Buddhist teaching was challenged by an interpretation of the Buddha's teaching which focused on the availability of the Buddha and his teaching to the larger community, and not only to those who adopted the monastic life. This "greater vehicle," the Mahayana, also developed the ideal of the bodhisattva, the enlightened being who postpones his own entry into nirvana for the sake of the enlightenment of all sentient beings. In this light, the Buddha is a permanent presence, and enlightenment is a possibility for all who seek to uncover their own buddha nature. It is, by and large, the Mahayana form of Buddhism which moved into China, Korea and Japan. A further expansion of the Mahayana, the Vajrayana, or "Diamond Way," became the basic form of Buddhism in Tibet. The Mahayana text for this class explores the subtler metaphysics and ethics of this branch of Buddhist thinking.

The Heart Sutra is a rather later Buddhist composition, dating from somewhere in the early centuries of the Common Era, perhaps as early as 100 C.E. Notice that in this text the Buddha is not the speaker, but is a silent presence approving what is said. The speaker is Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig in Tibetan), a disciple of the Buddha who emerges in later Buddhist thought as the boddhisattva (the person who perfectly realizes an ideal) of infinite compassion. It is important in reading this text to note who the speaker is: what is taught in this text is the foundation of compassion.

What do you find most compelling in this text? What is most unfamiliar? How is it like other texts we have seen? How is it different? What does the text take for granted? Note that the text explains that all aspects and objects of human knowing are "emptiness" (shunyata): form, feeling, cognition, conception and consciousness (the five "skandhas" or "heaps") are all equally empty, and that their emptiness is not other than what they are. How does that shape what it says? What does the text say about the meaning of the universe? about the meaning of life? about you? How does its understanding of the nature of reality shape its ethical teaching? What does this text have to say about the meaning of the individual? about how you should act? about why you should act? What is freedom? How does one find meaning in suffering? How does one find the transcendent in one's life? What is true human community? How does compassion emerge as a consequence of this teaching?

Read before class:

If you are really ambitious, you can tackle Nagarjuna's (c. 150-250 C.E.) analysis of these ideas in his Exposition of the Enlightened Mind (Bodhichittavivarana).  The essence of his argument is spelled out in his Sixty Verses (Yuktishastika): since all things arise dependently, out of causes and conditions, everything, even nirvana, is ultimately devoid of reality.  "Shunyata" is the noun form of "shunya", "empty", which is the word Indian mathematicians used to form the concept of the "zero"; note that Greek and Roman mathematics does not have the concept of zero, which came into the West through the Arabic translations of Indian mathematical texts in the 9th century and the Latin translations of those texts in the 12th.  Nagarjuna argues that "emptiness" is not the same as nihilism, since nihilism must posit that nothingness is real: a real destruction would require a real thing to be destroyed, and a real subject to observe it.  Neither is the case.

You may find helpful the images and explanations at this site, as well as the linked page here.

10/9 Fall Break - No Classes

Aphrodite, by Praxiteles 
National Archaeological Museum, Athens
Midterm exam for HONS 1001

The exam will begin at 8:30 in your HONS 1001 classroom, and you will have until 10:15 to complete it. After an intermission, we will meet again for discussion of Greek art and architecture.

Greek Art and Architecture

Some of the most enduring influences of the ancient Greeks that continue to influence us are their extraordinary achievements in the visual arts: their painting (mostly lost), sculpture and architecture. No understanding of this period is complete without some understanding of those accomplishments; we will spend some time today studying them in preparation for our visit to the Metropolitan Museum next Friday. It is important to realize that these artistic accomplishments were not separate from the rest of classical Greek culture: Socrates was a stone-cutter by profession, and the Parthenon was commissioned by Pericles, and served as the treasury of the Delian League. Some vocabulary which you may find helpful in speaking about this art: geometric style, cult object, votive offering, Kouros, Kore, drapery, sarcophagus, equilibrium, contrapposto, relief sculpture, ideal type, realism, individual facial figures, grave monument, Roman portrait bust, decorative wall panel.

The Pool of Bethzatha

Vatican Museums

The Gospel of John

What should you do? Why should you do it? How do you know? How should you behave toward others? What responsibility do you have toward them? Why? How is what Jesus has to say similar to what we have seen before? How is it different? How does what Jesus do reveal what he has to say? What does that have to say about how your actions reveal who you are?

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.
Read before class:

  • The Gospel of John, 1, 3:16-21, 5:19-47 and 11:1-27

The Self and Community 

The Athens of the Classical Age experienced a series of threats, successes and defeats which raised questions of individual and social responsibility in forms which are still compelling to us. Read their accounts of the Persian War as background to their debates. Who am "I" in all of this? Who am "I" in the face of death? What are "my" responsibilities? How do the Athenian answers compare to those reflected in the Katha Upanishad? How do they differ from the answers we saw in Homer? in Pindar? in Sappho? How does your own sense of self differ from any and all of these? How is it similar? Do you recognize in your experience the kind of responsibility to the community that Pericles appeals to? What do you conclude from your answer? What is your reaction to Pericles' description of Athens? Does Pericles' description of Athenian democracy coincide with the reality that Thucydides describes? What lessons does Thucydides suggest in his descriptions of the Mitylenean debate? In the Melian debate? In his description of the Sicilian disaster?

Read before class:

  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 101-118 (87-104 9th ed.)
  • Herodotus, On the Persian War (in Blackboard)
  • Thucydides, On the Peloponnesian War (in Blackboard) 

Jesus washing the disciples' feet
12th century French manuscript

Theatre of Ephesus

The Gospel of John

The long speech Jesus gives at this meal is an extended meditation on what it means to be a follower of Jesus. How does Jesus' action at the beginning of this story shape the meaning of what follows? How should one act toward oneself? toward others? Why? How does Jesus speak of his Father? How is that meant to be a model of how the follower should act? What should you do?

Read before class:

  • The Gospel of John, chapters 13-17, especially chapters 13 and 14  

The Self and the Polis: Tragedy as katharsis

Aristotle says, in the Poetics, that "Tragedy is, then, a representation of an action that is heroic and complete and of a certain magnitude--by means of language enriched with all kinds of ornament, each used separately in the different parts of the play: it represents men in action and does not use narrative, and through pity and fear it effects relief to these and similar emotions"(1449b). He uses the word "katharsis" (translated here as "relief") to describe the ultimate effect of tragedy. What is the "katharsis" (relief, purification, clarification) in the plays of the Oresteia? What kind of knowledge gives this "clarification"? How does this way of knowing differ from "philosophical" knowing?

Read before class:

  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides

Trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We will spend Friday afternoon together on this trip to the Met. The bus will leave from the WSOU side of the Recreation Center at 2:15 p.m. As part of this experience, you will write a three-page description of one of the myriad objects you encounter in this treasure house. We will be assessing your ability to describe accurately and fully.

Begin your paper by identifying the object for someone who has not seen it. Then give a detailed description of the object, including the size, material, function of the object (if there is one), the time period, the shape and ornamentation of the object. Then go beyond the description of the image to a discussion of what it means. Make a claim about the object you are describing in relation to ideas or concepts you have learned about the culture which produced it; formulate and argue a thesis about it. The paper should be three or four pages in length; it is to be handed in by November 8.

Some vocabulary which you may find helpful: geometric style, cult object, votive offering, Kouros, Kore, drapery, sarcophagus, equilibrium, contrapposto, relief sculpture, ideal type, realism, individual facial figures, grave monument, Roman portrait bust, decorative wall panel.
We will spend some time together in the Greek and Roman sections of the Metropolitan. Afterwards there will be ample time for you to explore other parts of the Museum; there's virtually no end to this vast collection. Wear comfortable shoes!

The Gospel of Luke  10th century MS
The British Library


The Gospel of Luke

The Gospel of Luke is one of the "synoptic" Gospels, so called because they, seen together, contain much of the same material. The author himself discusses his compositional technique in the opening verses. What does he tell you about the origins of this text?

Luke is one of the two Gospels to tell stories of the birth of Jesus, although his and Matthew's versions are very different from each other. What does he mean to say about Jesus with his version of the story?

Who is this Jesus, as Luke depicts him in the stories he tells about his activities? What does he want you to think about him? What message about the present time is carried in the final chapter?

Read before class:

  • Luke, 1-4; 6, 8, 11, 15, 22-24

The Self and the Polis: the question of justice: politics as a moral enterprise

The Athenian experiment in democracy forced many to reconsider the role of the individual in society. Plato's Socrates is one of the first characters in literature to take seriously the motto of the Delphic oracle to "know thyself." What does that Socrates have to say about personal responsibility in the Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito? Is that the same message we find in the early part of the Republic? How do these understandings of the self compare to the emerging sense of the self reflected in the Katha Upanishad?

As you read the Republic, think about the following questions:

  1.  How are we to take Socrates' suggestion that we shift the discussion from the individual to the community (368e-369b)? Is it simply a matter of seeing justice more clearly? What else is at stake in this move?
  2.  Why is Plato so concerned with education (paideia) of the young (literature and gymnastic)? And why does he want to exercise such strict control over the poets? (How might Euripides' and Aristophanes' plays have fared in Plato's new polis?
  3. Correlate the great foundation myth (414d-415c) to the class structure and the parts of the human soul. Does Plato get these right? are any important things missing?
  4. What finally does Plato claim that justice is and how does he arrive at this definition? Do you see problems with his definition?
  5. Socrates claims that three waves must be endured in order for this new polis to come into existence: the equal education of men and women, the new kinship structure and the philosopher ruler. What are the main lines of each proposal, and how are these three connected?
  6. Plato's notion of the forms (ideas) plays the central role in the education of the philosopher rulers with the highest form being that of the good. What are the ways that Socrates attempts to explain the form of the good (sun, divided line and cave)? Do these make sense; do you see problems with any of these analogies?
  7.  Will the guardians be happy?
  8.  What problems does Plato have with democracy? Are his criticisms cogent? Do you see any relationship of his criticisms with problems today?
  9. Why does Plato end his text with the story of Er? Do you see any connection to the earlier story of the ring of Gyges? - - - Does the story of Er fit at the end? What purposes, if any, does it serve?

Read before class:

  • Plato, Republic, Book 1-3

The Cave

Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from the Republic

Unlike the Apology, which was probably written shortly after Socrates' death, the Republic is a much later work, and the "Socrates" here may or may not accurately represent the historical Socrates; he is certainly the mouthpiece of Plato's own thought. The Republic is a lengthy discussion of the nature of justice (clearly a sore point for Plato, who was present at Socrates' trial); the "Allegory of the Cave" is a discussion of the nature of the kind of knowledge that will bring about a just society.

Do you recognize the kind of thinking Plato is describing? Do you recognize the "cave"? Do you live there? Do your friends? How do you recognize what is real? How can you tell the real from the false? How can you tell? What are you doing at university? How do you connect your education with your future? Does that education imply obligations to others? What might they be? What should you do? Why? How?

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.

Read before class:

  • Plato, Republic, Books 4-7
  • You may enjoy this version of the Allegory of the Cave.

Midterm exam for CORE 1101 (hand in take-home exam)

NOTE: This assignment must be handed in no later than class on November 1!

The exam will consist of your five-page essay answer to this question:

Nostra Aetate poses a number of basic human questions about the meaning of life. Choose two of the readings we have done and analyze how they address one of these questions.

Plato's Republic
Read before class:

  • Plato, Republic, Books 8-10

Second essay due in paper form. 


PATH station flooding
Hurricane Sandy - University closed for storm

What's left of the Belmar boardwalk
University closed for storm


The Death of Pentheus

Plotinus: Tractate on the Beautiful (Peri tou Kalou)

Plotinus synthesized the fusion of Stoic and Platonic thought that was the preoccupation of the Alexandrian philosophers of his time. His development of the ideal of the Beautiful and the One in a neoplatonic "monotheism" is both the culmination of ancient Greco-Roman philosophy and the bridge to the philosophical treatment of the idea of God which develops in Christian thought. At the same time, he also appears to reflect the influence of the Indian philosophers in the Alexandria of his time; notice the echoes of Buddhist teaching in the Tractate, particularly in the way in which he effectively denies intrinsic (or absolute) existence to the things of our experience.

Is Plotinus consistent with Plato in his understanding of knowledge?
How does Plotinus argue to the existence of a transcendent Beauty? Is his argument similar to Diotima's?
Is that Beauty the same as the Christian God?
What is the purpose of human existence in a Plotinian world?
How does Plotinus' philosophical approach reflect the social and political world of the third-century Empire?
Do you recognize Plotinus' footprints in Christianity today? In Islam?

Read before class:

  • Reread Socrates' speech in Plato's Symposium; in some ways, Plotinus is commenting on this text in the Sixth Tractate.
  • The Tractate on the Beautiful (annotated version)
  • For more of Plotinus' work, you can follow this link: Plotinus, First Ennead (Scroll down to find the sixth tractate; if that link does not go all the way to the sixth tractate, click on the text-only link at the top of the page. That version gives you the entire Ennead.)

The Self and the Polis: Tragedy and Comedy as social katharsis

The Greeks found in their dramas a way of coming to understand a number of conflicts that remained unresolved at the very core of their civilization; the plays they continued to demand give us insight into the nature of these conflicts. Indeed, some of these conflicts can be seen in our own world; perhaps they are inherent in human civilization. In any event, audiences to this day continue to find understanding in these plays. What is the "katharsis" (relief, purification, clarification) in Antigone, in Bacchae? What conflicts do they dramatize, and how do they illuminate them? What kind of knowledge gives this "clarification"? How does this way of knowing differ from "philosophical" knowing? How do these plays enrich the discussion of Justice? How do they illuminate the conflicts which gave rise to Justice as a problem?

The comic stage was another format in which the tensions in classical Greek society became visible (and risible). It was not an accident that a standard dramatic performance concluded with a comedy. Why are these plays still hilarious? What do they tell us about our society? What do they tell us about the Greeks? How does Euripides' treatment of women differ from Aristophanes'? Why? How are they similar?

Read before class:

  • Sophocles, Antigone
  • Euripides, Bacchae (in Blackboard)
  • Euripides, Medea (in Blackboard)
  • Aristophanes, Lysistrata
  • Aristophanes, The Clouds

Midterm exam for the Journey course due at class today.


"Take, read"
Benozzo Gozzoli, 1465

National Archaeological Museum, Istanbul

Augustine's Confessions

The Confessions is the first autobiography in Western history, and it remains a classic of psychological introspection. Augustine is a writer of unparalleled skill; pay especially close attention to the beginning and the ending of each book, for they summarize his thoughts.

How does Augustine understand the meaning of human life? How does he know this? Who is his partner in the dialogue in this work? In what way is this familiar to you? In what way is it different from texts we have seen before? What difference does it make in your understanding of the text?

What do you take away from his description of his childhood? Does it resonate with your experience? How? What are the various meanings of "confession" as Augustine uses this term to apply to this book?

Augustine writes this book as a long, extended conversation with God: what importance and meanings can be attached to this form; how would it have been different without this dialogical character? What kind of education did he receive, and what did he think of it?

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.

Read before class:

  • Augustine, Confessions, Books 1 through 4 

From Polis to Empire: Aristotle, Alexander and Hellenism

With Alexander's unification of the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia into a single cosmopolitan entity, the thought forms of classical Greek thought became the common language of a wide variety of human societies. The resulting synthesis of Greek, Egyptian and Middle Eastern thought became the basis both of Roman imperial civilization and of the Christian church. We are still the heirs of Alexander.

Read before class:

Deadline for handing in your paper on an object from the Metropolitan Museum.


Lateran Basilica, 6th century

Aristotle, marble portrait bust, Roman copy (2nd century) of a Greek original (c. 325 B.C.E.) in the Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome

Augustine's Confessions

 What does Augustine mean by the "disintegrated self"? How is this similar to, or different from, Plato's view of the self? the view of the self in John? in the Gita? in Buddhist thought? Why is he so troubled by the pear-stealing episode? Why is he still brooding over it late in his life? What does he learn from it? What do you make of it? How does his reflection on this episode color his understanding of human action? What should you do?

How does Augustine interpret his boyhood prank in Bk. II and what significance does he attach to it? For about ten years, he was associated with a religious group called the Manichees; who are they, what do they believe and of what importance is this to Augustine? As a young adult, Augustine is perplexed by a number of philosophical issues: what are they and how does he attempt to resolve them? Of what importance are love and sex to him during these early years?

Why does he go to Rome and then to Milan? What ambitions does he have" What is happening in the western Roman Empire at this point? What influence does Ambrose have on him?

Book VII describes Augustine's "intellectual" conversion; pay attention to the importance of "platonist" philosophy and how he sees this in relation to Christian revelation. What are the main features of this aspect of his conversion? How does Plotinus shape Augustine's answers?

Read before class:

  • Augustine, Confessions, Books 5 through 7

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.

From Polis to Empire: Aristotle

The ethical and political thought of Aristotle poses a startling contrast to that of Plato, whom Aristotle at one point summarily rejects. Aristotle posits an entirely different set of standards for evaluating human individual and social conduct; the debate between these two radically different points of view define the parameters of Western ethical and political thinking to this day.

How does Aristotle pose the question of "good" actions? Why should one act in this way? What is the purpose of human activity, from his perspective? What is the purpose of human society? How does Aristotle's notion of happiness differ from our contemporary understandings of it?

Read before class:

Fourth essay topic (due December 6): This will be your fourth paper in which you argue a thesis based on a critical reading of one of the following texts.  Pay attention in your writing to the language choices in the text.  Like the previous papers, it is to be about three pages in length, and you are encouraged to critique each other's writing before submitting this paper.

  • Plato, Republic. The Myth of Er (Bk X, 620a-d)

  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra's speech: lines 1391-1415

  • Vergil, Aeneid, Book II, lines 635-662


Ambrose of Milan, 5th century mosaic, probably a portrait   Sant' Ambrogio, Milan

Torso of a boddhisattva, Gandhara, Pakistan, 1st-2nd century C.E.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Note the Greek influence on the form of the body, showing the degree to which western and southern Asia were part of a world stretching to Spain and Britain.

Augustine's Confessions

How does Augustine work his way through the question of evil? How does this question go back to the pear tree episode? Do you find his analysis of the question persuasive? Why? How? Does he really answer the question he sets himself? Do you see his alternatives still present in our world today? How does one find the transcendent? How does one imagine it? What does it mean to suffer?

What do you make of Augustine's final conversion? What made it difficult? What made it possible? How did his intellectual struggles pave the way for it? How does one come to a vision of life? How does one understand the meaning of beauty? of truth? How does your own spiritual journey reflect Augustine's? How does one construct community?
Book VIII culminates in Augustine's moral conversion: what are its main features; with what (in himself) is he struggling; how does his conversion finally come about? What is the "vision of Ostia" as Augustine recounts it in Book IX? Throughout the book, what does Augustine consider the problem to be?  How does he conclude it can be dealt with?

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.

Read before class:

  • Augustine, Confessions, Books 8 through 10

From Polis to Empire: Philosophical thought in the developing empires

With Alexander's unification of the eastern Mediterranean and western Asia into a single cosmopolitan entity, the thought forms of classical Greek thought became the common language of a wide variety of human societies. The resulting synthesis of Greek, Egyptian and Middle Eastern thought became the basis both of Roman imperial civilization and of the Christian church. We are still the heirs of Alexander. We will begin with more consideration of Aristotle's Politics.

Read before class:


Pope Benedict XVI washing feet on Holy Thursday in the Lateran basilica

The Curia Iulia, seat of the Roman Senate, in the Roman Forum

Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical "God is Love"

Papal encyclical letters are a form of public teaching; usually they are devoted to an examination of a particular question. It is significant that Pope Benedict XVI chose this topic as the subject of his first formal letter. 
As you read the letter, do you find his arguments persuasive? Does his analysis resonate with your own experience? How? Why? What do you find surprising in it? What is not surprising? Given our discussions this semester, does his analysis clarify some of the issues we have been discussing? Does love of God necessarily translate into love of others? Individually? Communally? Why? How? How does his understanding of God ground his vision of human community? How does it suggest a grounding for one's own self-understanding? 

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your first reflections on today's reading.

Read before class:

  • Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical God is Love, Part I 

From Polis to Empire: The Roman Republic

Livy on the Roman concept of female virtue, Polybius on the constitution of the Republic.

Read before class:

  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 182-193 (175-185 9th ed.)
  • Livy selections (in Blackboard
  • Polybius selections (in Blackboard)

For a computer-designed view of ancient Rome, go to and download the software to visit Constantine's Rome.

11/22 Thanksgiving Recess - University Closed

Malcolm X

Julius Caesar

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X's Autobiography recounts his transformative journey into the leader he became. He raises questions of the meaning of the American experience that continue to challenge us. How does one find meaning in oppression? in suffering? What makes for a truly human community? How does one's vision of the transcendent affect the kind of community one builds? How do our cultural values get in the way of genuine community? How do we get past the cultural presuppositions that prevent the formation of genuine human community? As you read, think about the power of people's attitudes on Malcolm's personal growth and development. What kind of person did he become as a consequence of those attitudes, his own and others'?

Read before class:

  • Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapters 1 through 9

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your reflections on today's reading.

From Polis to Empire: Julius Caesar and the fall of the Roman Republic

Julius Caesar was one in a series of warlords whose private armies continually threatened the stability of the Roman Republic, which was itself collapsing under the weight of administering what had suddenly become a great world empire with institutions developed to rule a modest-size city.

Read before class:

  • Catullus, Poems (in Blackboard)
  • Vergil, The Fourth Eclogue (in Blackboard)
  • Vergil, Aeneid, Book 1
  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 193-198 (185-189 9th ed)

Augustus Caesar (the "Augustus Prima Porta")
Vatican Museums

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X also raises the question of structural oppression. Is it enough to be a good person as an individual? Do our responsibilities go beyond personal goodness? Is it enough to pursue personal happiness? How can we appreciate the humanness of others who are different from us? How can we find common ground with them? What makes this appreciation difficult? How? How does Malcolm X find a grounding for this appreciation in Muslim values? How do those values appear to you? How did his experience at Mecca change him?

Before you come to class, write a few paragraphs in your Journal with your reflections on today's reading.

Read before class:

  • Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, chapters 10 through 19

From Polis to Empire: Rome as Republic and as Empire: Vergil and the Aeneid

Vergil's Aeneas is both an epic hero on the model of Achilles and Odysseus, and a type of the model Roman, invented to justify the new imperial despotism of Augustus Caesar. The tensions between Vergil's epic aspirations and the political nature of his commission made his work an enduring classic. Vergil's other poetry also articulates an idealized version of what it meant to be "Roman."

The Odes of Horace are another perennial monument of the Augustan project. Like Vergil, he was patronized by Maecenas, an extremely wealthy Roman who was an adviser to Augustus. Published in 23 B.C.E., they give a rounded picture of the Rome that was settling in to rule the world. The first six Odes of Book III, the "Roman Odes," portray the social, moral, political and religious aims of the new Roman Empire as Augustus would have them accepted. What does it now mean to be a "Roman"?
Be prepared to discuss:
1. The driving force of the Aeneid: a divine plan?
2. The intervention of the gods, especially in Books 1 and 7.

Read before class:

  • Heritage of World Civilizations, pp. 198-207 (189-198 9th ed.)
  • The Essential Aeneid, Books 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 12
  • Horace, Odes (in Blackboard)

Marcus Aurelius
Musei Capitolini, Rome

Course Summary

Final Exam (take-home; due via email by midnight of December 16)

Your final for the Journey of Transformation class consists of two questions focusing on the two autobiographies that we have read. You are to answer both of them.

 1. Write an analytical essay in which you argue a thesis concerning the autobiographies that we have read in the second half of the semester. You are to determine the topic of the thesis and argue it on the basis of the two texts. Below are some questions to consider that are designed to help you develop a thesis and argument. You do not necessarily need to answer all, or any, of these questions, but they are a place to start as you contemplate your topic. Avoid merely giving plot summaries! We are looking for your analytical and critical thinking skills to shine in these essays. The final essay should be no longer than three to four pages. (30 points)
Questions to consider for your analysis:
Are there common elements that run through these stories of transformation? If so, what are they?What are the effects of these transformations in the lives of the subject?In what significant ways do these life stories differ?What difference does it make that these are autobiographies rather than some other genre?How do particular themes that we studied earlier in the semester affect your reading and understanding of these texts? 

 2. Identify one autobiography that has challenged or changed your thinking in what you consider to be a positive direction. How and why was it challenging? Be specific with respect to the text and its effects on your perspective. Your response should be no more than two pages long. (20 points)



From Polis to Empire: The Stoics

The first century CE brought a renewed interest in philosophy, but with a decidedly different approach. Rather than pondering ideal forms, or causes, the "moral" or "practical" philosophers were concerned with the question, "How should I live?" How do the Stoics? the Epicureans? Do you recognize some of these answers in the world we live in? Who are the Epictetuses of our contemporary culture?

Read before class:

Come to class prepared to formulate the list of topics, persons, ideas and things for the final examination. We will formulate the questions for the exam in the next class.


The Labors of Hercules
3rd century Roman mosaic
Madrid Archeological Museum
Course Summary

Review for final exam

We will formulate the questions for the final examination in this class, as well as tie together sundry other loose ends. The examination will, of course, be cumulative.

Fourth essay due.  Also last day to hand in cultural event reviews.
10:10 a.m. - 12:10 p.m.

Vatican Museums
Final Exam for the Colloquium

The final exam will be in two parts.  In the first part, we will provide a list of ten items from the identification list posted in Blackboard.  You will identify five of these items, in a paragraph for each.  (50%)

In the second part, you will answer one of these questions in a comprehensive essay, citing appropriate textual basis for your arguments, chosen from at least two texts we have read this semester. (50%)

1. In many of the texts which we have read, men and women differ on the question of what is right.  Analyze two of the texts we have read to explain how and why their answers to this questions differ.

2. Discuss the concept of duty in two of the texts we have read.  How does that conception inform characters' actuions and behaviors?

3. What should one strive for in life?  Analyze two texts' proposed answers to the question.


Reading list for this course:

Craig, et. al. The Heritage of World Civilizations, 9th edition (Prentice-Hall) ISBN 9780205803507
Diana Hacker, Nancy Sommers, Tom Jehn, The Bedford Handbook (required for all writing-proficiency courses) Bedford/St. Martin's (2009) ISBN 0312652690
Stephanie Dalli (translator) Myths from Mesopotamia (Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-281789-2
The Bible (in any modern translation; the New Revised Standard Version is perhaps the most useful) (E-text available)
The Bhagavad Gita (Barbara Stoler Miller, translator) (Bantam Classics) ISBN 978-0553213652 (E-text available) Note: this is not the version used in other Journey sections!
The Essential Homer, (Stanley Lombardo, translator) ISBN 0-87220-540-1 Hackett Publ. Company (E-text available)
The Essential Aeneid, (Stanley Lombardo, translator) ISBN 0-87220-790-0 Hackett Publ. Company (E-text available)
Aeschylus, Oresteia (Fagles translation) (Penguin) ISBN 0-14-044333-9
Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays (Fagles translation) (Penguin) ISBN 0-14-044425-4 (E-text available)
Aristophanes, Lysistrata and Other Plays (Penguin) ISBN 0-14-044814-4 (E-text available)
Plato, The Symposium (Christopher Gill translation) Penguin Classic ISBN 0-14-044927-2
Plato, The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin) ISBN 0-14-044928-0 (E-text available)
Plato, Republic (Penguin) ISBN 0-14-044914-0
Augustine, Confessions (Chadwick translation) (Oxford Classics) ISBN 0-19-283372-3
Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Ballantine Books) ISBN 0-345-35068-5
Reading for Summer before the course: (Malcolm and the Republic are both long reads; you're better off having read them before the semester begins.) We'll start with the Symposium in the first class.
Plato, The Symposium (Christopher Gill translation) Penguin Classic ISBN 0-14-0449927-2
Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X (Ballantine Books) ISBN 0-345-35068-5
Plato, Republic (Penguin) ISBN 0-14-044914-0
Recommended for background reading, especially if you haven't done much study on the Greeks and Romans):
Edith Hamilton, 

Any of the novels of Mary Renault, e.g.:

Course Objectives and Requirements:

On completion of these courses, you will be able to:

Click here for the Honors Program Written Work Grading Guidelines

These courses are meant to be a "colloquium" in the formal sense: an ongoing conversation about the ancient world. In most cases, the conversation will focus on one or several texts of the period. Your preparation for each conversation will include your reading the assigned text(s) before the class. There is no substitute for knowing what you are talking about.

You are expected to be present, both physically and mentally, at all class meetings, on time and prepared to discuss the day's materials, in fulfillment of Objectives 1 and 2. Participation in the class does not include the use of instant messaging; please turn off your messaging programs during class time, so you can pay full attention to the class discussion. Your participation in the class meetings will count for 25% of your final grade in the Honors course, and 25% of your grade in the Journey course. Participation will include informed class discussion and in-class writing on the assigned readings. The Journey class will also require regular contribution to your on-line journal, in Blackboard. These journal assignments will count for 25% of your grade in the Journey course. Also included in your course participation is your presence at one or more of the cultural events on campus this semester; you are required to attend at least one such event, and to hand in a two-page review of this lecture or reading. Don't wait till the end of the semester to do this; events become less frequent at the close of the term. You may hand in your review at any time during the semester; the last day we will accept it is December 8.

You will have four short formal essays to write for the Honors course, to give you an opportunity to reflect on the materials you have been reading, and to give you experience in developing and arguing a thesis, in fulfillment of all five course Objectives. These papers will count cumulatively for 30% of your final grade in that course.
There will be midterm examinations on the scheduled dates, covering the materials dealt with up to that date. The examination will consist of one or several essays in which you will be asked to demonstrate your understanding of these materials, in demonstration of Objectives 1, 2, 3 and 5. This examination will count for 20% of your final grade in the Honors course, and 25% of your grade in the Journey course.

There will also be a cumulative final examination on the scheduled date. This examination will also consist of one or several essays, in demonstration of your fulfillment of Objectives 1, 2, 3 and 5; it will count for 25% of your final grade in the Honors course, and 25% of your grade in the Journey course.
Scholarship and learning are fundamentally communal efforts. You will be part of a study group of your fellow students, for common discussion of the themes of the course, and perhaps also for specific group tasks. This common effort at learning is a significant part of the Honors Program experience, as the older Honors students will tell you. The professors expect and encourage this common effort, and are available to work with your groups in your common effort. The conversations in this course are not restricted solely to the morning class meetings; they will also continue throughout the week in these group meetings. In the final analysis, the real measure of your learning is not your course grade, but your ability to hold your own in discussing the classical ideas of human civilization. You really understand something when you can explain it to someone else.
Plagiarism statement: At the same time, however, we expect that any work you submit as yours, whether a review, a paper, or an examination, will be your own work, and not that of another. Any citation of another's words or ideas (other than matters of common knowledge), whether by direct quotation or virtual paraphrase, must be appropriately indicated by quotation marks, footnotes or indication in the text itself. Copying or downloading a block of material and changing a few words does not make the resultant text your own; always indicate your sources.



Journey of Transformation:
Journal entries: 25%
Class participation: 25%
Midterm exam: 25%
Final exam: 25%

Colloquium on Ancient Civilizations:
Class participation: 25%
Essays: 30%
Midterm exam: 20%
Final exam: 25%


Disability Services Statement: Students at Seton Hall University who have a physical, medical, learning or psychiatric disability, either temporary or permanent, may be eligible for reasonable accommodations at the University as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. In order to receive such accommodations, students must identify themselves at the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS), provide appropriate documentation and collaborate with the development of an accommodation plan. The DSS phone number is 973-313-6003. For further information, please go to

We are most fortunate to have many excellent events scheduled right on campus throughout the semester. We strongly urge you to attend as many lecture, readings, performances and theater events as possible. Check "Community Announcements" on the SHU homepage and bulletin boards around campus on a regular basis to stay tuned to upcoming activities. We especially recommend the Poetry-in-the-Round series and the performances of the Theatre-in-the-Round (for which you may even want to try out).
We will also be organizing a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during the semester; you are expected to participate in this visit, and are required to hand in the written assignment that will be part of the visit. The Met is one of the great cultural resources of North America; it too is part of the framework of your exploration of the vast achievements of human society. We hope that this visit will be the beginning (or, even better, a continuation) of a lifetime's enjoyment of the Met.

Online resources for this course include:




Image at top of page: The Acropolis and Agora of Athens from the Temple of Hephaistos in the Agora

HONS 1001 Curriculum Honors Faculty
HONS 1102 Honors Seminars Honors Students
HONS 2003 Honors Advising Application and Admission
HONS 2105 Honors Enrichment Honors Program Page