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Great Books Unbound: Lives at Stake (FYS)
COL 150F
Fall 2019
Section: 01   02   03  

This course offers students a series of conceptual starting points and critical tools for engaging with important works of western cultural and intellectual history. Combining small discussion sections with occasional lectures by professors from the disciplines of history, philosophy, and literary studies, we will closely analyze three texts, pulling them apart at their seams to understand what they are, how they work, and why they matter.

This year's course will begin with the Greek ALEXANDER ROMANCE, asking how various writers working in different times and places throughout the middle ages narrated, revised, and re-contextualized the life of Alexander the Great. Beyond the seeming unities of a written text and a lived life, we will trace out the vagaries and complexities of both the manuscript tradition and the struggle for authority in the writing of history.

Next, we will turn to Shakespeare's MERCHANT OF VENICE, in which disparate thematic concerns--about fidelity and mercy, race and social class, money and love--are woven together into the literary forms of character and plot. In the life-or-death stakes of a courtroom drama we'll find a model of interpretation in which the competing claims of the letter and the spirit (of the law; of the text) are weighed and judged.

Finally, we will engage with Descartes's MEDITATIONS ON FIRST PHILOSOPHY as an investigation into the possibility and structure of human knowledge. We will analyze and evaluate Descartes's method of radical doubt, which he employs to establish a complex hierarchy of foundational certainties--starting with "I think, therefore I am" and building to the immateriality of the soul, the existence of a supreme being, and the independence of the mind from the body.

This course is not a prerequisite but is strongly recommended for students considering the College of Letters major. Like other First Year Seminars, it will be writing-intensive, with assignments designed to help students analyze texts and develop compelling claims and arguments about texts within the disciplinary frameworks of history, philosophy, and literary studies.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA COL
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Credit/Unsatisfactory
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on MAY-24-2024
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