21L.001 Foundations of Western Culture I: Homer to Dante

Spring 2000

Ulysses deriding Polyphemus by John Mallord William Turner.
John Mallord William Turner, Ulysses deriding Polyphemus - Homer's Odyssey, 1829, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London. (Image is taken from Web Museum site: http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/.)

Course Highlights

All readings for this course may downloaded, and all assignments are available.

Course Description

This subject introduces the student to some of the literary, philosophical and religious texts which became major sources of assumption about the nature of the universe and mankind's place within it and which continue to underlie the characteristically Western sense of things to this day. In particular, the subject will study closely texts from two broad ranges of texts, those of ancient Greece and some major texts of the Judeo-Christian tradition, which rivals the tradition of the ancient world and in many ways contests with it.

In our discussions we will also examine the claims made in behalf of our texts that they are classics and we will explore some of the historical, literary, intellectual, and ethical significance that the question "what is a classic?" has had at different moments in the history of Western civilization.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.

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Prof. Alvin Kibel

Course Meeting Times

Two sessions / week
1.5 hours / session