HIS 151 – Fall 2007

Introduction to Western Civilisation (Part I)

Please note: this syllabus is subject to regular modification.

Be sure to check online routinely for changes and updates.

[This is the definitive version of this syllabus, subject to updates; it supersedes previous print versions]

Go to a printer-friendly version of the syllabus (last updated 22 August 2007)

 

Instructor: Oren Falk

 

Chartres cathedral

Lecture room: McGraw Hall 165

Office: 323 McGraw, 255-3311

 

Lecture times: Tuesdays & Thursdays 11:40-12:55

e-mail: of24@cornell.edu

 

Office hours: Mondays 13:00-15:00 or by appointment

   
   
TA: Guillaume Ratel Office: McGraw Hall B42
e-mail : gr37@cornell.edu Office hours: Tue. & Fri. 10:00-11:00 or by appointment
   

 

Section rooms : Section times:
Stimson Hall 206
Thu. 14:30-15:20
Uris Hall 312
Fri. 11:15-12:05
Stimson Hall 206
Fri. 12:20-13:10

Can't find the classroom? Consult a searchable campus map.

This course surveys European history from remote Antiquity to the sixteenth century. We will consider developments in technology, economy, politics, religious institutions and faith, cultural media and social ideals; together, these themes add up to civilisation in the West. At the same time that we acquaint ourselves with these dimensions of the past, we will seek to acquire the basic skills professional historians use to learn about this past.

Why study the history of Western Civilisation? Lots of reasons... If only so you can make sense of what the people who shape our lives are saying, maybe even help them make sense of it:  
 

Karl Rove says he feels like Moby Dick.

In a television tour of three Sunday morning shows as his departure from the White House nears, Mr. Rove, President Bush’s chief political adviser, complained that Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were Captain Ahabs relentlessly pursuing him as the big white whale.

“Let’s face it, I mean, I’m a myth,” Mr. Rove told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about his critics. “You know, I’m Beowulf, you know, I’m Grendel. I don’t know who I am. But they’re after me.”

from The New York Times, 20 August 2007, The TV Watch: Rove Talks: If Mistakes Were Made, They Weren’t His,” by Alessandra Stanley

 
Take this course to find out whether you are Beowulf or Grendel. (And take HIS 152 in the Spring to find out whether you are Captain Ahab or Moby Dick.)  

 

 

Week       Schedule of Classes
I
August
  23 Introductory: a civilisation in the West?
II
28 &
30 Beginnings of Greek civilisation
III
September
4 &
6 Classical Greece
IV
11 &
18 Mediterranean empires
V
18 &
20 Early Christianity
VI
25 &
27 Neighbours of the West
VII
October
2 &
4 The early medieval West 1st essay due
... Fall Break ...
VIII
11 Y1K and beyond
IX
16 &
18 Reform of the Church
X
23 &
25 Beyond Latindom midterm exam
30 &
   
XI
November
1 The High Middle Ages
XII
6 &
8 The late Middle Ages and Renaissance
XIII
13 &
15 New worlds
XIV
20
  Early modern Europe 2nd essay due
... Thanksgiving Break ...
XV
27 &
29 The Reformation; epilogue
... Winter break!!!

 

Assigned texts :

Lynn Hunt (et al.), The Making of the West, vol. 1: To 1740, 2nd edn (2005)
the publishers also offer free online resources to use with this textbook. I draw your attention to those without, however, endorsing them or offering any opinion about their usefulness.

Katherine J. Lualdi, Sources of The Making of the West, 2nd edn (2005)

Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 5th edn (2007)

(all three books above can be bought as a package at the Cornell Store, ISBN 0312-470436)

Aristophanes, Lysistrata, tr. Douglas Parker (2001)

Leonard Doyle (ed.), St Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries (1948)

Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’án (1999)

Seamus Heaney (tr.), Beowulf (2000)

William Shakespeare, The Tempest, ed. Barbara Mowat & Paul Werstine (1994)

 

Recommended texts :

Peter Jones, An Intelligent Person's Guide to Classics (1999)

Barbara H. Rosenwein, A Short History of the Middle Ages, 2nd edn (2004)

E.F. Rice & Anthony Grafton, The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559 , 2nd edn (1994)

Gordon Harvey, Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students (1998)

W. Strunk Jr. & E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th edn. (2000)

 

About the Internet :

The Internet is a delightful, democratic, wide-open space; it’s also a dangerous place, especially for students: there’s no easy way to sift the gold from the garbage. The Internet is, therefore, often not a reliable tool for academic research – and is never, on its own, a sufficient one. There's a world of difference between, say, a Wikipedia entry and an article on JSTOR, although both can be legitimate and (if used correctly) powerful tools of academic study. Do you know how to tell the difference? Are you able to apply the same sorting criteria to new websites you may never have heard of before?

Use care and commonsense when surfing. Learn to look for signs of trust-worthiness (such as citations of verifiable, accredited sources). Always check information you learn online against reliable sources elsewhere. One of the healthiest approaches to using the Web prudently is to get into the habit of cross-referencing anything you discover online; in fact, if you get used to doing this, you will have mastered an important technique historians use all the time, in reading sources both on- and offline. If you're not sure what to make of an online resource, ask your instructors or a Reference Librarian for help.

Some useful online resources include:

Ancient Greek World virtual gallerya museum portal to the world of Ancient Greece (with some links to Rome )

Ancient History Sourcebook – an immense collection of general ancient materials, mostly primary sources

Visual Tour through Late Antiquitywith an emphasis on 6thC Gaul

What did people in the past wear? – a seriously dated (19thC) but entertaining romp through pre-modern costume

Later medieval research guide – custom-made research pointers in high- and late-medieval history

Medieval Sourcebook – an immense collection of general medieval materials, mostly primary sources

Douai-Rheims Bible – 16thC Catholic translation: closest English equivalent to medieval Latin Vulgate

Qur’án – a searchable translation

1492: An ongoing voyage – Library of Congress exhibit on Europe and America up to the early 1600s

The Catholic Encyclopedia – (incomplete) online edition of important – but seriously dated – e20thC work

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – most comprehensive (& historical) dictionary of the English language [the direct link may not work from off-campus locations; click on the "Databases" tab in the Cornell Library gateway and search for the OED there]

Key Library Resources for Western Civilisation – custom-made pointers prepared for this course, with an emphasis on web-based research

 

Evaluation:

Attendance & participation (15%)

Movie reaction paper (5%)

Two essays (25% each = 50%)

Midterm exam (10%)

Final exam (20%)

(A passing grade in each component is needed for getting a passing grade in the course.)

 

You are expected to attend all classes, both lectures & sections. Three absences (or more) will affect your final mark. If you cannot attend a class, it is your responsibility to find out the substance of what you’ve missed. It’s crucial that you prepare for classes & participate in them. This means allowing yourself sufficient time to read through the assigned materials, to think about them and to research any questions you may have. Please bear in mind that active participation involves asking good questions, as well as proposing some good answers, and is not limited to section discussions.

You’re also encouraged to come to our office hours anytime, to consult about your work or just to chat about course materials. It's a good idea to schedule meetings in advance so we know to expect you. If you’re not completely comfortable speaking in public, office hours offer a reasonable alternative for exploring your ideas, questions and concerns with an instructor. You are required to come to office hours at least twice during the term for consultation on assignments, well in advance of due dates. Your first appointment should be no later than Week V, the second no later than Week XII.

You will write two essays during the term, each about 1000-1500 words long (ca. 4-6 pages, 12-pt font, double-spaced). The first essay is due on 4 October in class, the second essay is due on 20 November in class. These essays will focus on analysis of some of the primary sources assigned in this course; you will be asked to offer close readings of the selected sources, but you should also draw on the themes covered in lecture, section discussions and textbook readings. We will discuss the essays further in class.

Over the course of the term, we will be watching several movies on historical themes related to our topic. These movies will be shown at pre-arranged screenings (see screening timetable and locations ) and will also be available on Library Reserve for individual viewing. You will be asked to submit a reaction paper to one of these films (or more than one, if you wish to take a comparative perspective) within two weeks of screening.

A 2½ hour midterm exam will take place on Tue., 23 October 2007, 19:30-22:00; the exam will be held in 165 McGraw Hall (= regular lecture classroom). The main purpose of this exam is to encourage you to read the textbook (Hunt et al., The Making of the West) carefully and critically. The lectures will not cover all of the issues addressed in the textbook, nor will my takes on the major issues in the development of the West always coincide with those taken by the textbook authors. You therefore need to study the book with care ahead of each week’s classes, and to construct from it the connecting threads you will need to make your own sense of a long and diverse historical narrative.

A final, 2½ hour exam will be held on Fri., 7 December 2007 , 14:00-16:30, at a location TBA. The exam will call on your knowledge of materials discussed in class as well as in the assigned readings. Occasional in-class quizzes may be given, counting towards your participation mark.

Always keep a paper trail of your thinking and writing process; you may be asked to submit research notes and drafts. When handing in your work, please submit both a paper printout and an electronic copy, which I will keep on file. A late-penalty policy (2 points deducted per day overdue) will be strictly enforced.

You can expect Guillaume and me to be available for consultation on course-related matters during office hours or via e-mail anytime. If you cannot come to regular office hours, please contact us to arrange another time to meet with you. We will do our best to respond to all e-mail queries within 24 hours. You will be expected to have an active e-mail account and check it regularly.

Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity. It is your responsibility to know what the Code requires. All work submitted for academic credit will be your own.

 

 

Grading principles:

A-range marks indicate work whose excellence stands out. The work demonstrates thorough preparation, nuanced comprehension and synthetic ability, analytic insight and even originality. It is beautifully written and presented. This grade signifies exceptionally fine achievement within the already high standards expected of Cornell students.

B-range marks indicate skilful, thorough work at the high level of academic competence expected of Cornell students. The work demonstrates a good grasp of specific subject matter and knowledgeable reliance on the course materials, as well as the writer’s analytical engagement with the assignment. It is clearly written and sensibly structured.

C-range marks indicate work that evinces some preparation, general comprehension of the subject matter and assignment parameters, a degree of analytic effort and expressive skill. Such work measures up to the standards expected of Cornell students, but partially or inconsistently. It still requires significant improvement in one or several respects.

D-range marks indicate work that only barely qualifies for academic credit. The work is seriously flawed in terms of argument, structure, writing or presentation, pointing to problems in reading, comprehension, knowledge processing or preparation of the assignment. It does suggest that the writer has learned something and could, with proper investment of time and effort, meet the standards expected of Cornell students. Students should not, however, allow themselves to perform at this level over time.

A grade of F marks work that is unacceptable for academic credit by the standards expected of Cornell students. This grade does not necessarily mean that no work was done; it does mean that a student’s work fails to demonstrate even a minimum of effort, comprehension or engagement with the course materials. An F (or worse!) is also routinely assigned in cases of breach of the Code of Academic Integrity.

 


Course outline:

Be sure to check online routinely for modifications and updates to this outline.

WEEK I (begin reading Aristophanes’ Lysistrata)

please familiarise yourself with the principal textbooks for this course:

Lynn Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. xxxiii-xl

Katherine Lualdi, Sources of The Making of the West, pp. 1-12

in preparation of our discussion of pre-Greek & Archaic Greek civilisation (Week II), you may be interested to know that:

The Cornell Cinema will be screening the recent film 300 (2007, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel), a loose (!) rendition of the myth of Spartan heroism at Thermopylae , in the coming days:

  • Thursday, 23 August 2007, at midnight, in Willard Straight Hall theatre
  • Friday, 24 August 2007, at 19:30 in Uris Hall auditorium
  • Saturday, 25 August 2007, at 22:30 in Uris Hall auditorium

student ticket price: $4

no section this week

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 


WEEK II (begin reading Aristophanes’ Lysistrata)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 3-51

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 52-81

 

for section (August 30 & 31), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 39-52 (§§ 2.1-2.5)

Aristotle, Poetics, §§1-7, 10, 12-13 = Aristotle, Poetics, §§1447a-54a, 1459a-60b, 1461b-62b (a more scholarly, heavily-annotated edition [but the link is for some reason erratic])

Aristotle, Politics, Bk 1 (§§1-3), Bk 3 (§1 [1st ¶], §§5-11); Bk 4 (§§2-12)

Polybius, Histories: Selected Excerpts , Bk 6 (§§1-18)

 

A list of useful key words

update: the publishers of our main textbook (Lynn Hunt et al., The Making of the West, vol. 1: To 1740, 2nd edn, 2005) offer free online resources to supplement it. I draw your attention to these resources without, however, endorsing them or offering any opinion about their usefulness. See for yourselves whether you find these helpful.

Of related interest may be another article in the New York Times, Michelle Slatalla's "Knowledge is Priceless but Textbooks are Not" (30 August 2007), which contains some sensible advice.
[NB: online access to the NYT and NYTMag is free for Cornell users, but direct links may not function when logging in from off-campus locations. In such cases, copy the article's author, title and date of publication and use them to search for it once you have logged into the NYT website through the Cornell Library Catalogue. If you run into problems, let your instructors know.]

you can learn more about this week's topics

and finally, if you (or your dorm roommates) still doubt the eminent usefulness of your W Civ knowledge, incontrovertible proof may be found in

Teddy Kider's New York Times article, "For Yankees, Squirrel’s Visit May Be Omen (a Bad One)" (30 August 2007). Read it & shudder.

 

 

WEEK III (finish reading Aristophanes’ Lysistrata)

GUEST LECTURER: Prof. Jeffrey Rusten, Department of Classics

e-mail Professor Rusten or visit his homepage; you can also review his lecture slides

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 83-121

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 53-70 (§§ 3.1-3.4)

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 123-61, 172-79

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 74-85 (§§ 4.1-4.4)

 

for section (September 6 & 7), please prepare:

Aristophanes, Lysistrata

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK IV

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 163-72, 180-201

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 85-98, 102-5 (§§ 4.5-5.2, 5.4)

On this sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, you may be interested in reading one historian's take on a parallel episode in Rome's history. Alternatively, here is what an influential member of the current political elite has to say about the relevance of Roman history to current conditions.
Does consideration of these historical analogues help advance our understanding of the present? of the past?

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 203-25, 234-53

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 110-12 (§ 6.2)

 

for section (September 13 & 14), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 98-102, 106-9, 113-15, 117-19 (§§ 5.3, 6.1, 6.3, 6.5)

Res gestae Divi Augustus (Accomplishments of the Divine Augustus)
(you may skip the Introduction and Bbiliography; skimming through the webmaster's introductory notes may be helpful)

FILM SCREENING: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 19:00, in McGraw Hall 165: I, Claudius.

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK V

GUEST LECTURER: Professor Kim Haines-Eitzen, Department of Near Eastern Studies

e-mail Professor Haines-Eitzen; you can also review her lecture slides (password protected)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 225-34

Bible (Douai-Rheims):

The Nicene Creed (notice the [slight] differences from Lualdi, Sources, pp. 120-21, § 7.1)

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 253-63

 

for section (September 20 & 21), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 120-27 (§§ 7.1-7.3)

Passion of SS Perpetua and Felicitas

 

FILM SCREENING: Thursday, 20 September 2007, 19:00, in McGraw Hall 165: Monty Python's Life of Brian.

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK VI

update: in preparation for the classes on the Qur’án, please complete the Discussion Board assignment.

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 272-79, 283-92, 319-26

Library tours with Reference Librarian Dr. Virginia Cole:

    • Wednesday, 26 September 2007, at 16:30
    • Thursday, 27 September 2007, at 13:30

    Please meet in the lobby area of Uris Library. Attendance will be taken and participating students will be able to complete a short for-credit assignment (which will count as a bonus towards your overall grade).

    Please contact Guillaume or Oren if you cannot attend either tour.

    update: see the Key Library Resources for Western Civilisation web guide prepared by Virginia Cole.

 

GUEST LECTURER: Prof. David Powers, Department of Near Eastern Studies

e-mail Prof. Powers

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 292-99, 326-31

Qur’án , Surah 9: Repentence

 

for section (September 27 & 28), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 132-44 (§§ 7.5-8.3)

Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’án, esp. pp. 42-141

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK VII (begin reading Beowulf; read at least up to line 1812)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 263-72, 279-81, 299-318

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 331-57

 

for section (October 4 & 5), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 127-32, 144-55 (§§ 7.4, 8.4-9.1)

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK VIII (finish reading Beowulf)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 359-65, 416-18

 

for section (October 11 & 12), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 166-70 (§ 10.1)

Beowulf

 

use this opportunity of reading Beowulf to prepare for the extravaganza coming later in the season:

the Robert Zemeckis adaptation of Beowulf, based on a screenplay by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman, is scheduled for release 16 November 2007

starring

  • Ray Winstone (Beowulf)
  • Anthony Hopkins (Hroðgar)
  • Crispin Glover (Grendel)
  • Angelina Jolie (Grendel’s Mum)
  • Robin Wright Penn (Wealhþeow)
  • John Malkovitch (Unferð)

and more digital special effects than you can shake a sword at

to which line(s) in the poem does this scene correspond? a monster's arm will be raffled among all those able to identify it correctly

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK IX (read through all of St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 365-72, 384-97, 447-48

 

GUEST LECTURER: Prof. Judith Peraino, Department of Music

e-mail Prof. Peraino; you can also review her lecture slides and listen to some medieval music (both password protected)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 413-16, 445-46, 516-17

 

for section (October 18 & 19), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 171-73, 176-81 (§§ 10.2, 10.4)

St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries [read all; prepare to discuss especially the Prologue and capp. 1-3, 5-7, 16, 19-41, 44-48, 68-73]

 

FILM SCREENING: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 19:00, in McGraw Hall 165: Sorceress.

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK X (midterm exam)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 372-79, 421-33

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 379-81, 412-13, 459-61

Ibn Battuta’s travels

 

for section (October 25 & 26), please prepare:

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 374-75

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 159-65, 173-76, 217-21 (§§ 9.3-9.4, 10.3, 12.4)

Usamah ibn Munqidh, excerpts from his Autobiography

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK XI

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 381-84, 399-412, 418-21

 

FILM SCREENING: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 19:00, in McGraw Hall 165: Beowulf & Grendel .

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 435-59, 461-64

 

for section (November 2 & 3), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 182-208 (§§ 11.1-12.1)

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK XII (begin reading William Shakespeare’s The Tempest; read at least up to Act 3)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 497-525

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 467-97

 

for section (November 8 & 9), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 222-45 (§§ 13.1-14.2)

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK XIII (finish reading Shakespeare’s Tempest)

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 525-31, 565-73

 

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 531-44, 604-5

Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, excerpts from his Turkish Letters

for section (November 15 & 16), please prepare:

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 251-53, 282-85, 300-3 (§§ 14.5, 16.4-16.5, 18.1)

Leo Africanus, description of Timbuktu
  Trickster Travels
  Natalie Zemon Davis’s recent book about the life and times of al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al Fasi (a.k.a. Leo Africanus and a half dozen other monickers), Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim between Worlds (2006), is available for your browsing on Course Reserve. Get a taste for the book, for the historical methodology Davis employs and for the critiques of how she proceeds, from some of the reviews
William Shakespeare, The Tempest

FILM SCREENING: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 19:00, in McGraw Hall 165: The Return of Martin Guerre .

 

A list of useful key words

you can learn more about this week's topics

 

 

WEEK XIV

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 559-65, 597-604, 606-19

 

no section this week

 

A list of useful key words

 

 

WEEK XV

please read

Hunt et al., Making of the West, pp. 547-59, 573-97

Lualdi, Sources, pp. 254-81 (§§ 15.1-16.3)

 

 

for section (November 29 & 30), please prepare:

Review questions for the final exam. (Please let me know ahead of time whether you have any questions; section will only meet if there is need for it.)

 

A list of useful key words

see some practice questions for the final exam (password protected)

FINAL EXAM : Friday, 7 December 2007, 14:00-16:30, in McGraw Hall 165.

 

extra-credit library assignment (due no later than 14 December 2007)

 

 

Ambroggio Lorenzetti’s Buon Governo, Sala della Pace in the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena (ca. 1338): the effects of good government

 


 

Oren Falk, Assistant Professor

Department of History, Cornell University

of24@cornell.edu

Page last updated on: 10 December, 2007