Core Curriculum

Texts & Ideas

 

In Self and Service, Dr. Bonnie Brown and Dr. Arthur Hochman's course, students explore aging through readings and through service-learning with a child or senior citizen.  The course, Brown and Hochman explains, is aimed at answering the question: "given my major or personal aspirations, how could I use those talents and aspirations to serve, beyond simply going to work or graduate school?"  Students craft oral and written histories of themselves and the person they serve; one student remarked that "the overall experience of my service was really the most powerful aspect of this class.  "Getting to work with my community partner have me something to look forward to."  Another student echoed that his community partner, "an older gentleman. . . really taught me a lot" while another commented that "this class has encouraged me to go above and beyond" in my service.

Reel America is a course that focuses on a different kind of narrative text.  For many students, movies are a pervasive and integral part of their entertainment lives.  But this course "offers students a chance to examine cultural artifacts," Dr. Joseph Colavito explains, "and consider how they are products of the time in which they are produced.  The course functions as a site of interdisciplinary investigation and interrogation at the intersection of history and film."  Collaborative engagement also is developed among students as together they examine the role that films play in their world. 

For students in Dr. Harry van der Linden's course, Ethics, the Good Life, and Society, the questions that confront students are also personal.  "What role should morality play in my life? Is my pursuit of greater individual wealth just in a world of so much poverty? Is factory farming cruel and unjust? When is forgiveness appropriate? Are our wars justly executed?"  The course challenges students to examine some of the fundamental issues of personal and social morality in both classical texts and contemporary issues, including the "good life," van der Linden suggests, and to "to discuss how morality is related to human flourishing." Grounded in the belief that texts are vital to  challenging our perspectives, all three courses also suggest that our worldview is made richer through the complications that reflective engagement with the world offers.

Course Structure

A menu of three-hour courses to be taken from the first year onward.

Learning Objectives

  • To engage in reading, writing and discussion about important ideas drawn from the study of important texts in a variety of areas - including, among others, literary texts, dramatic texts, sacred texts, historical texts, philosophical texts and scientific texts.
  • To develop capacities for argument, interpretation and aesthetic appreciation through engagement with these texts and ideas.
  • In order to ensure that courses are designed to serve the needs of the general education student, we recommend that courses offered for core credit meet two important criteria:

    1. They should carry no prerequisites, and
    2. Their primary purpose should not be to prepare students for more advanced work in a particular discipline.

Some examples of courses currently being offered in Texts & Ideas include:

Roman Perspectives
Roman Perspectives: Bread for the Masses - This course will examine civic engagement in the Roman world, both as a pagan and Christian capital for the West. We will undertake this investigation by looking at a variety of original sources translated into English. As we examine the texts of these authors, we will also have the opportunity to think about how the ideas of the ancient Romans have influenced cultures from Britain, France, and Spain in the West to the shores of North Africa to the civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Knowledge and Reality
Fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality will be studied through the analysis of classical and contemporary texts. Topics may include skepticism, the relationship between faith and reason, the nature of mind, free will, the nature and existence of the external world, and the nature and existence of God. Fundamental philosophical questions about knowledge and reality will be studied through the analysis of classical and contemporary texts. Topics may include skepticism, the relationship between faith and reason, the nature of mind, free will, the nature and existence of the external world, and the nature and existence of God.

Ethics, The Good Life, & Society
Fundamental philosophical questions about right conduct, virtues and vices, the good life and social policy will be examined on the basis of classical and contemporary texts. Topics include issues of personal and social ethics, such as forgiveness, tolerance and hate speech, abortion, animal rights, and world poverty. Theories of justice, human rights, and meta-ethical topics may also be covered.

Inquiries in Am Literature and History
The Roots of American Identity: This course offers an introduction to the field of American literature prior to 1860. We often overlook the diversity and complexity of early literary and cultural life in the "new world," forgetting that to speak of American literature at this time is to imply a field that is not only stylistically diverse but also radically multiethnic, multilingual, and transatlantic. Focusing on writing in English, this course will respect the variety of these perspectives while bringing them into a provisional conversation with one another. We will spend considerable time addressing the material practices of reading and writing literature, the role of written texts in forming communities, and the way that these texts shaped the development of a specifically "American" identity.