FL 221 Q / 001
Literature of the Western World I

Spring 2007
TH 10:15-11:30
145 Withers Hall

Course Materials:


  • Class preparation, participation, & quizzes (20%)
  • Writing Assignments (15%)
  • Midterm Exam (15%)
  • Group Presentation (10%)
  • Semester Project (25%)
  • Final Exam (15%)

General Information:

  • An exploration of the formation and evolution of some Western world views (ways of understanding nature, society, the self, and the transcendent) from Antiquity to the Renaissance.  We will study, through the reading and discussion of literary texts: Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, the Romans, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Middle-Ages, and the early Renaissance in Europe.  We will view documentary and feature films, analyze painting, sculpture, and, architecture, and listen to music to contextualize our understanding of the readings.  We will also develop the skills of close reading, textual analysis, and critical thinking. Students will learn about plots, characters, themes, style, motifs, and vocabulary as they read the works, and are responsible for the introductory material on each writer and period.

  • This course is designed as an inquiry-guided learning experience in which students learn through active investigation.  This process will improve their ability to develop informed questions, identify and collect appropriate materials, present results systematically, analyze and interpret results, formulate conclusions, and evaluate these conclusions.  Such learning promotes critical thinking and develops lifelong learners. It also fosters intellectual development and maturity and the recognition that ambiguity and uncertainty, qualities often expressed in the Western literary tradition, are inevitable, and that we must learn to make reasoned judgments in the face of such uncertainties.

  • Learning Goals: By the end of the course students will be able to explain the characteristics of some major literary periods; describe how literature reflects its historical context; identify rhetorical devices; discuss literary works orally and in writing; understand the importance of literature to society and the relationship of literature to the arts.

  • Reading assignments to be completed prior to the class for which they are assigned.  There will be short quizzes on the readings each week.

  • Attendance: Two absences allowed with no penalty (it is suggested that students miss no classes), thereafter the final grade is reduced by three points.  Please refer to the University's Attendance Regulations.  I do not "teach out of the book." Our class time is important and you need to be there - in body and in mind.  Please arrive to class on time.  Two late arrivals equals one absence. If you do need to miss a class, it is expected that you will notify me in advance and that you will be prepared for the following class.  If you miss due to medical reasons, I need documentation on the day you return to class. Take notes as appropriate.  We will often break into discussion groups: participate freely, share ideas, learn from others.
  • Late assignments & makeup policy: Late assignments - grade will be reduced one letter grade for each day late. No
    makeup work is allowed.

  • Explanation of class workA = Student comes to class prepared, on time and ready to participate.  Student is attentive, always responds when called on.  Student volunteers often with/ pertinent questions and comments.  B = Student is usually prepared, always responds when called on,  volunteers on occasion. C = Student shows evidence of being unprepared on occasion,  arrives late or leaves early.  Has trouble when called on , does not volunteer often.  D = Student is unprepared / inattentive, never volunteers. F =  Student exhibits lack of concern for the course. I will also request you to email in discussion questions from time to time.

There will also be short quizzes [maximum five minutes] at the start of some classes on the reading for the day. I will also email you each week with requests to prepare questions and provide information to include in the class sessions. These will be small tasks that will help to enhance our class discussions. Be sure to check email regularly throughout the semester.

  • Group Presentations: Starting the fifth week of class, students [in assigned research groups] will begin to give presentations [length of 15-20 minutes] of the various historical periods covered in the course. There will be a sign up sheet for students to choose and research their topic of choice. Students will then conduct a presentation of the topic based on information learned from relevant books, articles, internet resources, artistic works, or cultural artifacts. Presentations may serve as a starting point for semester projects. Power point presentations work particularly well for these presentations.

  • Semester Project: Students will choose a topic and format in consultation with the instructor. Many students in previous semesters have related a literary / cultural topic to contemporary social issues or even to their major disciplines, and the results have been excellent. Students will present their semester projects during the last week of classes. The final form of most projects are either: (a) a web page, (b) a power point slide show, scrapbook, portfolio, or creative work [all required to have an accompanying narrative], or (c) an expository essay. Students may work individually, with a partner, or with their research group. Projects are evaluated by the following criteria: (i) the originality and creativity of the project, (ii) the amount of research involved, (iii) the documentation of sources, (iv) the analysis of information gathered, (v) the synthesis of the material into a coherent whole, (vi) the conveyance of conclusions in a class presentation.

  • My e-mail and office hours are on the syllabus to make myself available to you.  Education is about more than obtaining a degree; it is also about learning how to ask pertinent questions, analyzing the issues of our time, getting to know oneself and others on interpersonal and intellectual levels. Such activities which will help you to deal with the complex world in which we live.  The great writers of the Western tradition have posed difficult questions, in a captivating way, to help us better understand the human condition.  I teach the course in this spirit.

  • Academic IntegrityStudents are expected to work within the letter and spirit of the NC State Code of Student Conduct.  Please read the following carefully by the end of the first week of classes: Code of Student Conduct. For an academic integrity violation: there will be a zero for the assignment, final grade will be reduced by one letter grade, and a report will be filed with the Office of Student Conduct. For a second violation: the student will automatically fail the course, and a second report will be filed with the Office of Student Conduct.

  • Disability Policy:  Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities.  Please register as necessary with the Office of Disability Services for Students at 1900 Student Health Center, Campus Box 7509, 515-7653.  For details, please see: Office of Disability Services for Students.  If you already have an accommodation letter from DSS, please schedule an appointment with me during the first week of classes to discuss your accommodation.

  • Diversity Policy:  This course fosters free and open dialogue, the acceptance and discussion of different opinions, and mutual respect among class members.  Please consult NC State Policies on Non-Discrimination.


    Titles & page numbers refer to The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces.                

    12 Introduction                                                                                  

    14  Masterpieces of the Ancient World (1-15)

         Gilgamesh (16-30)

    19  Gilgamesh (30-47)                                                                           

    21  The Old Testament (47-61)

    26  The Old Testament (61-72 & 88-95)                                             

    28  Homer, The Iliad (98-120) Assignment One Due


2  Homer, The Iliad (172-189 & 201-209)   

4  Homer, The Odyssey (209-220 & 303-316) Group Presentation - Origins of Culture & Literature

The Odyssey (431-467)

11 The Odyssey (467-514) Group Presentation - The Old Testament & Judaism

16  Sappho, Selected Poems (514-517)                                             

18  Sophocles, Oedipus the King (596-617) Group Presentation - The Greeks

23  Oedipus the King (618-640) & Aristotle, Poetics (746-750)             

25  Plato, The Apology of Socrates (726-746)  Assignment Two Due


2  Midterm Exam 
4 Virgil, The Aeneid (815-847)
 Project Descriptions Due                                

9 The Aeneid (847-867, 868-886, & 890-895) Group Presentation - The Romans

11  Catullus, Selected Poems (808-813)

23  Lucian, A True Story (976-1003)                                                       

25  The New Testament (960-970) Group Presentation - The New Testament & Christianity  

30The New Testament (970-975) & The Koran (1035-1051) Assignment Three Due


Medieval Lyric Poetry (1184-1189)  
Group Presentation - The Middle Ages    

Walahfrid Strabo, "Elegy on Reichenau" (1189)
Anonymous, "Song of Summer" (1194)
Ibn Arfa ‘Ra'suh, "In Battle" (1197)
Hildegard von Bingen, "A Hymn to St. Maximus" (1197)
The Archpoet, "His Confession" (1199)
Jaufré Rudel, "Love Song" (1202)
Bertran de Born, "In Praise of War" (1207)
Arnaut Daniel, "The Art of Love" (1209)
Alexander the Wild, "Strawberry Picking" (1218)
Christine de Pizan, "Alone in Martyrdom" (1222)                                                                        

8  Marie de France, Lanval & Laüstic (1169-1178)        

13  Dante, Inferno (1293-1318)

15  Research Day  

20 Inferno (Books 13 / 1339-1342; 21 /1363-1366; 34 / 1406-1409) Group Presentation - The Renaissance  

22  Purgatorio (1415-1418 & 1424-1426); Paradiso (1426-1429)

  • Field Trip to NC Museum of Art - April 18 @ 1 p.m.    

    27 Project Presentations

    29 Project Presentations

    * Final Exam - In our regular classroom (TBA)

• About Exams: Exams will consist of four parts: (1) Identification of passages from the readings and a brief discussion of their significance; (2) Short answer questions concerning historical, political, and social contexts (readings, introductions to readings, lectures, class discussions, films, course pack readings);  (3) Identification of key dates; (4) A short essay.

• Midterm Exam Preview

 I.  Identifications.  Identify the following passages (speaker, work, author, original language, and approximate date) and briefly discuss their relevance to the work in question.  Example: "Clear out grandfather / or else be hauled out by the ankle bone." Gilgamesh, Old Testament, Iliad, Odyssey, Sappho, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle. (32 pts).

II.  Definitions.  Short paragraph explanations of plots, characters, authors, periods, etc.  Examples: "What were the dominant characteristics of the Roman Empire?"  "Who was Telemachus; what is his role in the work in which he appears?"  "What is the function of the gods in Homer's work?"  (32 pts).

III.  Some important dates.   Example: "When did the Trojan War take place?"  (10 pts).

IV.  Essay.  Write a short essay on the following topic (approximately 250 words):  What is the role of religion in some of the works that we have read to date?  Compare and contrast two or more works, giving specific examples when appropriate (26 pts).

• Final Exam Preview

I.  Identifications. Virgil, Catullus, Lucian, New Testament, Koran, Medieval Lyrics, Marie de France, Dante (32 pts).

II.  Definitions. Short paragraph explanations of plots, characters, authors, periods, etc. (32 points).

III.  Some important dates (10 pts).

IV.  Essay.  Write a short essay (approximately 250 words) on the following topic: How do literary works relate to the historical, social, and political contexts in which they are written?  Refer to at least two works in your discussion (26 pts).