Spring 2023 Course Descriptions
Great Texts Upper-Level Courses - Spring 2023
Early Modern Age (GTX 3321)
Dr. William Weaver – TR 12:30 – 1:45 PM
The early modern age was an age of literary as well as scientific discovery. Erasmus and Marguerite de Navarre were champions of the “new learning,” which represented a new approach to both sacred and secular texts. Shakespeare wrote for an institution – the London Public Theater – that was only three decades old when King Lear was first performed. Cervantes, a failed playwright, arguably invented the novel with Don Quixote. Everybody on the syllabus, it seems, was pursuing “things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme” (Paradise Lost 1.16). What questions about the self and its place in the world were driving these literary endeavors?
Great Texts by Women (GTX 3330)
Dr. Lynne Hinojosa, TR 9:30 – 10:45
In this course we will read texts from across the centuries written by women. We will focus on how these women writers interpreted, questioned, and contributed ideas within four often overlapping realms: the intellectual tradition and the concept of virtue; the church and the pursuit of holiness; art and its poetic functions; and politics and the gender norms of society. Texts will include: Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own; Christine de Pizan’s The Book of the City of Ladies; Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Catherine of Siena’s The Dialogue; Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace; Jane Austen’s Persuasion; Toni Morrison’s Beloved; and selected poems.
Black Intellectual Traditions – GTX 3332
Dr. Robert Miner – TR 9:30 – 10:45
In this course, we will seek not just to learn about, but more fundamentally to learn from, a series of texts that belong to (but by no means exhaust) the Black intellectual tradition. Our procedure will be seminar-style discussion and close reading. “I still believe that the unexamined life is not worth living; and I know that self-delusion, in the service of no matter what small or lofty cause, is a price no writer can afford,” writes James Baldwin in the introduction to Nobody Knows My Name. We will consider how Baldwin both draws upon and critiques the “Western” intellectual tradition. The same applies to our other authors, whose works constitute an ongoing dialogue—an argument extended over time (as Alasdair MacIntyre puts it). We will learn how our authors offer diverse and sometimes incompatible answers to the contested questions that emerge from their experience. In this course, our primary teachers will be the texts themselves. Reading them will deepen our capacity for reading in a manner that is both sympathetic and critical—and so promote a fundamental aim of liberal education. They will enable us to grapple with W.E.B. DuBois’s dictum that “the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line,” and to consider its implications for our own century. Texts will be chosen from the following: Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I A Woman?”; Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice From the South; W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk; Ralph Ellison, Shadow and Act; Richard Wright, Native Son; Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun; James Baldwin, Collected Essays; Toni Morrison, Beloved and The Source of Self-Regard; James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree; Cornel West, Race Matters; Ta-Nehesi Coates; Between the World and Me.
Master Works in Art (GTX 3340)
Dr. Elizabeth Corey – TR 11:00 – 12:15
This class is something of an art history course, but we also consider basic questions of aesthetics. Where did western art begin? What is beauty? How did art develop, from Greece through the Roman Empire, into the early Christian, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods? Just as importantly, we consider how to see works of art. Josef Pieper’s Leisure the Basis of Culture is the intellectual inspiration for the course as a whole, and E.H. Gombrich’s The Story of Art is our “textbook.” But we also read Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Beauty in the Light of the Redemption, Roger Scruton’s Beauty and Erwin Panofsky’s famous essay, “The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline.” And, of course, we look at lots of great art.
Master Works in Drama (GTX 3341)
Dr. Skye Strauss – MWF 11:15 – 12:05
The nature and function of dramatic literature, in both cultural and theatrical history, are hotly debated. Is drama merely a blueprint for theatrical practice, an art form in its own right, or a hybridization of the two? What is the role of philosophy, art, literature, and cultural studies in writing and analyzing drama? How do we, as artists, scholars, and critics, discern artistic and literary value? We will wrestle with these questions (and others) throughout the semester. This class involves a survey and analysis of some of the most important works of dramatic literature in our intellectual tradition; as such, we should have vibrant class discussions about issues such as the role of theatre and art in society, the value of literature, and the understanding and adaptation of drama for the stage. Students should gain a better understanding of how to interpret and understand drama, but with a renewed sense of their own critical faculties and reasons for their aesthetic preferences.
Great Texts in Business: Wealth, Success, and the Imagination (GTX 3351)
Dr. Michael Stegemoller – MWF 11:15 – 12:05
In this course, we will read and discuss some of the great texts that address questions of business and commercial life. These texts may include historical and/or philosophical treatments of business, such as Adam Smith's Of the Wealth of Nations, Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Alexis De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Max Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, John Ruskin’s Unto This Last, and excerpts from the Old and New Testaments, as well as literary treatments of business, such as Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Dickens's Hard Times, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, or short stories and essays by Louis Brandeis, Leo Tolstoy, Wendell Berry, William Law, and C.S. Lewis.
Great Texts on the Practice of the Liberal Arts: Remembering Words, Wisdom, and Eloquence (GTX 3361)
Dr. Phillip Donnelly – MW 2:30 – 3:45
What are the best ways to cultivate the practical skills involved in grammar, logic, and rhetoric? The readings for this seminar will be organized around the rhetorical tasks of invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. In addition to the anonymous Rhetorica Ad Herennium, the texts for the seminar include writings by Aristotle, Cicero, Aphthonius, Augustine, and Erasmus. The goal of the course is to move beyond questions of definition (regarding the various arts, or even the tasks of the orator) to consider how the rhetorical tradition debated the ways that the relevant skills could best be instilled and improved.
Great Texts in the Twentieth Century (GTX 4321)
Dr. Kristen Drahos – MW 1:00 – 2:15
The twentieth century was the most violent and hate-filled in human history to date. The unabashed optimism that accompanied its beginnings was quickly shattered by two world wars and innumerable regional conflicts, fascist and communist tyranny, genocide on an unimaginable scale, economic depression, segregation, apartheid, social fragmentation, and ecological devastation, just to mention a few lowlights. Despite the bloodshed and destruction, there were some still seeking signs of life amid the animosity and destruction. Through literature, philosophy, and theology, we will explore the contours of suffering and hope that defined this century. Read from among such noted authors as Primo Levi, Martin Buber, Czeslaw Milosz, Max Weber, Evelyn Waugh, Alasdair MacIntyre, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Toni Morrison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Flannery O’Connor.
Augustine and Aquinas (GTX 4331)
Dr. Michael Foley – MW 2:30 – 3:45
This course attempts to facilitate a better grasp of the thought, development, and historical context of St. Augustine of Hippo through a survey of his writings from his conversion to Christianity in A.D. 386 to his death in A.D. 430. Our interest is both historic and existential. Augustine had a tremendous impact on Western Christianity. Before we can assess how he has been received historically, we must first determine what he actually thought and wrote and whether or to what degree his thought developed over time or in response to particular challenges. Existentially: Augustine, we might go so far to say, was obsessed with the question of happiness. What can he teach us about happiness today?
Great Texts Capstone (GTX 4343)
Dr. Melinda Nielsen – TR 3:30 – 4:45
“The world is full of gods,” pre-Socratic philosopher Thales declared (at least according to Aristotle). If so, what does it mean for humans to live “naturally” in such a world? In what ways does the natural world—the world of senses, sight, words, and reason—mediate the supernatural world? How can we use these natural goods to perceive the supernatural more clearly? This course will focus on two closely related areas in which creaturely activity stretches toward and falls short of the divine: human rationality and human language. In particular, what roles do wonder, rhetoric, myth, and poetry play in living a free and fully human life in a supernaturally inflected cosmos? Readings will include works from Plato, Athanasius’ The Life of St. Anthony of the Desert, Newman’s The Idea of the University, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetry, Tolkien’s Silmarillion, and will conclude with C. S. Lewis’s “modern fairy-story,” That Hideous Strength.
Great Texts in the Fantasy Tradition – (GTX 4V99)
Dr. Alan Jacobs – TR 2:00 – 3:15
In one sense fantasy is as old as storytelling itself – most of the elements of what we call fantasy may be found in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad – but the genre of Fantasy as we know it was created in the nineteenth century, in response to an increasingly disenchanted age. And it has only grown in power and influence since, as our society has become more rationalized and mechanistic. Probable texts for this course: George Macdonald, Phantastes; William Morris, The Wood Beyond the World; Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist; J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings; John Crowley, Little, Big; Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell