LS 211 Introduction to the Humanities
FA 2010 HO
van der Linde, Dirk
B.A., M.Div., M.A.
2:25 - 3:40 PM
Textbook: Janaro, richard Paul and Thelma C. Altshuler. The Art of Being Human.
Textbooks can be purchased through the MBS bookstore
Textbooks can be purchased through the Parkville Bookstore
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Learning Outcomes: Core Learning Outcomes
Presentations, projects, a research paper, in-class writing assignments.
Attendance: This is expected and required. More than three absences will result in lowering the final grade by one letter for each additional three absences.
Presentations: Students will conduct a 20-minute presentation on a topic of abiding concern to the humanities. This will be selected in consultation with the instructor, and will be delivered at an assigned date. Criteria for the presentation will be available in the first two weeks of class. These can be done collaboratively, in groups of no more than three. This need not (and ideally should not) be a lecture, but rather the presentation of a topic that will include visuals, a class response component, and a clear statement of the issue considered. Presenters should seek feedback from the class, and far-sighted students will select topics related to their research papers. The presentation is 25 per cent of the final grade.
In-Class Projects: Several in-class projects (some solo, some collaborative) will be assigned throughout the semester. These are noted in the assignments. They will deal with critical issues in the humanities, and students will demonstrate through the projects both understanding of he issues and a clear statement of their position. These will be both written and oral. The various projects together constitute 25 per cent of the final grade.
Research paper: Each student will select a research topic relating to the humanities and write a 7 to 10 page paper, using sources correctly cited, and with an arguable thesis. The student will make a case for or against some topic of concern within the humanities (Example: There should—or should not—be some control over the content and display of art in public places.). Critical thinking and analysis of the issue will be the guiding components of assessing the papers. More detailed criteria will be provided during the semester. Additionally, each student will present the findings in the paper to the class, informally, for feedback. This will be done before the final draft is completed to allow for possible changes suggested by peers. It is not possible to overstate the importance o this paper being the sole effort of the student. This is worth 50 percent of the final grade.
1. Week One: Introductions. What is humanness? What differentiates us from other species? Do we have to accept the bad and ugly as well as the good in defining what it means to be human?
Readings: Chapter 1: “The Humanities: Still Vital” pages 3ff.
Activities: Write out your own definition of beauty. Give two examples, citing how you would use the term to describe a person and an object.
2. Week Two: The Critical Thinker
Readings: Chapter 2: “Profile of the Critical Thinker” pages 21 ff. Especially note: “Apollonian and Dionysian Responses to the Humanities.” Why do I need to know this stuff?
Activities: May we say that the critical person is Apollonian and the non-critical person is Dionysian? Why or why not? Give reasons for your answer.
3. Week Three: Myth
Readings: Chapter 3: “Myth and the Origin of the Humanities” pages 43 ff. Especially note “Archetypes in Mythology.” Myth as explanation. Myths of childhood. Introducing myths or motifs such as the Wasteland, the Green World.
Activities (choose one): 1) Write a short paper about three myths from your early childhood that helped shape your expectations of life. Do you still hold to them? If so, what role do they play in your life? If not, what happened to make you discard them. 2) Write a short fable about an animal hero who must undertake a dangerous journey to accomplish as task. Share it with class members and see whether they can grasp your meaning or perhaps recognize some contemporary issue in it.
4. Week Four: Love
Readings: Chapter 13: “Love” pages 461 ff.
What is love? What is love’s role in human endeavors? How has love been portrayed in popular creative genre? What do scientists say? Is love an invention? Types of love—borrowing descriptions from the ancient Greeks. Love and marriage. Romantic love.
Activities (Choose one): 1) One of the ways Platonic love has been defined is as a ladder beginning with delight in a physical union and leading upward to the ones of two minds. Do you believe the concept is still valid? Or is love only a fancy word for lust? 2) Is genuine friendship more, or less, important to you than a satisfying, if temporary, physical relationship? Pretend you are forced to choose. 3) Write a dialogue between two people who both use only the word “love” when they refer to their relationship, yet who somehow make it clear to us that each is operating according to a different definition of the word.
5. Week Five: Morality
Readings: Chapter 11: “Morality” pages 393 ff.
Definitions. Moral systems. Can morality be legislated? Sources of moral authority.
Activities (Choose one): 1) If morality begins in the home, what happens to someone who has been given a strong moral upbringing only to go out into the world and find that it is the clever, not the good, who generally succeed? 2) The arts were discussed as one of the courses of moral values. Cite a movie or television show you have seen recently that you believe suggests a recommended moral choice. How convincing do you think it was? 3) A dramatic example of the conflict between the law and differing moral systems is the issue of the death penalty. What a short paper in which you: (a) summarize the rationale behind the death penalty as held by its proponents; (b) summarize a major argument that has been advanced in opposition to it; and (c) present as well as defend your own view.
6. Week Six: Religion
Readings: Chapter 10: “Religion” pages 351 ff.
History and survey. Belief systems. Religion’s role in love and morality. Questioning of beliefs. Religion and the arts.
Activities (Choose one): 1. Some scholars of the humanities tell us there are four pathways to religion. One is tradition—belief because it is part of your culture and background; the second is history—belief because it is based on events that can be documented; the third is philosophy—belief through rational analysis. What do you think the fourth is? Explain your answer. 2. Augustine maintained that human beings are given free will by God and thus are responsible for their sins. At the same time, he said that God, being all-knowing, must see in advance everything that we are going to do. How did Augustine reconcile these two apparently opposing ideas? Do you think he succeeded? 3, The Hebrew and Christian Bibles and the Islamic Qur’an all present the commandments of God. They are strikingly similar. Does this mean that all three religions pray to the same God? Why or why not? Explain your answer. 4. Would the discovery of life on other planets strengthen or diminish the role of religion in modern society?
7. Week Seven: Happiness
Readings: Chapter 12: “Happiness” pages 431 ff.
Definitions. Philosophical views. Hedonism. Epicureanism. Stoicism.
Activities (Choose one): 1. Choose one of the following options for a short paper and discussion: (a) A gambler who has lost all evening makes one last bet with money that has been saved for the down payment on a home and wins back twice the sum. Could you justify the risk? Or take the gambler to task regardless of the win? Is life a matter of taking risks anyway? Is it worth playing close to the vest? (b) In a children’s game of musical chairs, one child is clearly the winner. Should the organizers of the game give each child the same prize in order not to hurt anyone’s feelings? Or should children be taught at an early age how the world usually works? Which of these two approaches is likely to produce the happier child? 2. Which theory of happiness, as discussed in this chapter, is most helpful to the world and which the least? Explain your answers. 3. A philosopher said, “Take care that your happiness does not depend on what happens to you.” To which theory of happiness is this statement most closely related? It is, in your opinion, a reasonable or even possible approach to living? What can be said in favor of and against it?
8. Week Eight: Death and Life-Affirmation
Readings: Chapter 14: “Death and Life-Affirmation” pages 495 ff.
Images of death. Medicalization of death. Death and an afterlife. Models of Life-Affirmation.
Activities (Choose one): 1. Identify and explain three of the images of death discussed in this chapter. 2. Reread Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up” on page 520. Explain the line “The Child is the father of the Man.” Then indicate in what way it relates to the subject matter of this chapter. 3. Much of the art depicting people’s reaction to death shows them grieving. In your won words, define grief and indicate whether it is life-affirming or life-denying. 4. From reading the chapter, you should have found hints about staying young. Explain one of them and give your own evaluation of it.
9. Week Nine: Fall Break!
10. Week Ten: Freedom
Readings: Chapter 16: “Freedom,” pages 559 ff.
Personal definitions. Limitations and responsibilities. Personal will and freedom.
Activities (Choose one): 1. Though the chapter is titled “Freedom,” you didn’t find anywhere in it a succinct definition of the term. The reason is that the word is used in many different contexts and often quite vaguely. From having read the chapter, give as many versions of “freedom” as you can. 2. Of the determinist philosophies discussed in the chapter, which ones do you believe have the most bearing on your lie? Which the least? In view of your answer, would you call yourself a complete determinist? Partial? Not at all? Give reasons for your answer. 3. Rousseau’s famous position was that, if it were not for the necessary but oppressive limitations imposed by social institutions, people would be naturally benevolent toward each other. Do you agree that in a state of nature, without any limitations, people would get along? Or is aggression inherent in human nature and must be controlled?
11. Week Eleven: Conflicts about Art
Readings: Chapter 15: “Conflicts about Art,” pages 529 ff.
How some artists fared in their lifetime. Reasons for conflict. Repressive measures against art—censorship and suppression.
Activities (Choose one): 1. Write a short report on a book, film, play, comic strip, or television show that you believe may have influenced your early views about gender roles or ethnic characteristics or social class. If you were not subject to early stereotyping, explain how it was avoided. 2. Should anything ever be banned? If so, what and by whom? If you think nothing should ever be banned, justify unlimited freedom of expression.
Class Activity: Divide into pairs. One person is the prosecutor in the Oscar Wilde case; the other is the defense counsel. Let the class be the jury.
12, 13, 14: Weeks Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen: Student Presentations
Presentation of student research. Papers will be due by the first class period of Week Fifteen.
15. Week Fifteen: Language
Language families. History of the English Language.
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Attendance Policy:Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.
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Last Updated:8/2/2010 2:50:12 PM