Perspectives on the Liberal Arts and Sciences: Course Proposal Narrative

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Perspectives on the Liberal Arts and Sciences: Course Proposal Narrative

General Education Advisory Committee
Queens College, City University of New York

Course Title: Classics 150: Greek and Latin Classics in Translation

Primary Contact Name and Email: Joel Lidov (

Date course was approved by department: this is an existing course.

Please describe how the course will address criteria for Perspectives on the Liberal Arts and Sciences courses.
Be sure to include an explanation of the course’s specific learning goals for students to make a connection between these and the general criteria for Perspectives courses.
The Introduction to Classical Literature serves the liberal arts curriculum in three, interrelated ways. First, and foremost, the course aims to give students an awareness of some of the Greek and Roman works that have been most prominent in the development of the literature and thought of since the Renaissance. These works have a long history of being appreciated for their contribution to an understanding of the human situation and the reading, translation, adaptation, and response to these works has shaped a large of part of the intellectual heritage of the West. Knowledge of them enriches the understanding of other works in that heritage. The success of the Western colonial powers in disseminating their educational methods and goals has made the Classical tradition a part of modern culture even in places historically unconnected to the Classical heritage. Secondly, as a literature course, the class seeks to introduce students to methods of analysis that are broadly applicable to many literatures and to other forms of reading; Classical literature is especially useful for examining the role of form, the use of tradition, the incorporation of textual self-reflection, the importance of language choices, and the necessity of taking account of historical context. Thirdly, the reading of these texts can be a basis for reflection on the relation of literature to its social or civic context, both by considering the circumstances of composition (oral performance vs. literary preservation, social and religious function vs. academic or rhetorical study) and by the discussion of ancient texts that explicity reaise the question of the value of the literature.
In class discussions and exams students are expected to show a knowledge of the content of the readings both as a good in itself, since the readings are reference points for later culture, and as a basis for making statements of their own understanding. They should be able to answer basic questions about how inidividual works are constructed to reach their goals and to formulate opinions about the thematic content of the works as statements of wider ranging significance.
These goals can be specifically applied to the PLAS Criteria:
1 As a literature class, the course stresses the discipline of literary analysis: how the text can be construed as a statement about questions that it implicitly raises or that belong to its historical situation, how different but not unlimited constructions of the same text are possible, and how the questions we bring as modern readers can contribute to the analysis of the text.
2. The examination of the historical context of production and the explicit discussions of the value of literature found in some texts explores the relation of literature to other disciplines as well as its social role. The questions about, e.g., individual behavior and social roles and obligations, which are especially prominent in these books, promotes a discussion of the ways in which the discipline of literary study differs from and shares with other disciplines in the study of such questions. The actual practice of reading analysis also brings out the aesthetic pleasures which are distinctive to the study of the arts
3. As ancient inquiries into the role of man in the universe, and the meaning of human action, Classical epic, drama, and philosophical literature preeminently “offer[s] students a way of achieving a deeper appreciation of their own lives and insight into the lives and thoughts of others, especially those whose perspectives, because of historical, cultural, racial, and gender differences, are different from their own.”
5. The study of ancient literature necessarily confronts students with the diverse nature of how we construe what it is to be human generally, of how social roles are created (e.g., Greek vs. barbarian, citizen vs. slave, superior vs. inferior) and of how cultural difference creates different models of gender roles and sexuality.
6. Although there is no expectation of extensive research for this course, all instructors assign a paper topic that asks the student to take on the task of actively inquirying into a work or topic by formulating their own opinion through an analysis of a single work or investigating a topic beyond what is presented in class.
7. The course covers two cultures over a thousand years and inevitably involves the problem of change.
8. All course materials are original documents.
The course is fundamentally about the European Tradition and entirely Pre-Industrial.

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