Civilization and Literature

Books for the Course:

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Course Description:

A study of great works of literature that represent major periods of civilization. The course explores the nature of God and humanity, the nature of good and evil, the meaning of moral choice, the purpose of life, and the meaning of salvation.

Course Objectives:

Civilization is a complex social formation in which people and people groups join together for a common good, namely self-preservation and perpetuation. A civilization is generally comprised of various human systems and institutions: economic, political, educational, religious, familial, martial, and artistic. But what makes a civilization great? What makes it enduring? What holds its people together? Culture. What is a primary means by which this culture develops, is codified, and then passed on? Storytelling. Civilizations are grand communities of people, usually of a common ethnicity but also including other minority groups, all held together by communication. The histories, concepts, ideas, beliefs, and expressions of this grand community are contained within its greatest literary works. In this class, we will survey some examples of great literature that was produced by great civilizations, which the literature also helped shape. Most of our readings come from Western civilization, but in no way did/does the West have the corner on the market of civilization. To be sure, the excellence and exceptionalism of Western civilization is impressive and inescapable. But we should not lose sight of the fact that there were and continue to be wondrous civilizations with their own amazing literatures in other parts of the world. In this class, we will also examine some literatures from ancient and modern Chinese civilization.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this course, HUMA 202 students will demonstrate:

  1. Knowledge of how literature has influenced the development of Western civilization in each of its major historical periods through an analysis of the central ideas and themes that inform particular works of great literature (via lectures, course readings, exams, class discussion, and papers);
  1. Ability to read works from a variety of literary genres and to appreciate the major aesthetic elements of a literary work that contribute to its stature as a work of art (via lectures, course readings, exams, class discussion, and papers);
  1. Ability to engage literature from a Christian perspective by exploring the transcendent questions and issues raised by seminal literary works regarding the nature of God, humanity, good and evil, moral choice, the purpose of life, and the meaning of salvation (via exams, class discussion, and papers);
  1. Skills involved in literary research and analysis (via writing a 5-7 page critical, thematic, or comparative literary research paper).