AUCW 180
Spring 2009
    Western Heritage: Humanities

            Everything has been figured out
                     except how to live.   --  Jean-Paul Sartre


         Like the other courses which make up the University of Hartford's All-University Curriculum, AUCW 180 has a specific focus: a brief and limited consideration of what it has meant to be a human being in the Western world since the dawn of the written word.  Our attention will be directed to beliefs, behaviors, and social principles that can be said to be uniquely Western that we have inherited from the dawn of history to the present. Because of this rather narrow focus on the Western traditions, our analysis of the literary works considered in this course will give scant attention to the ancient Eastern religions and cultures.

Primary Readings

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Stephen Mitchell version, Free Press
The Joseph Story, Genesis: 35-50
Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, Fagles translation
________, Antigone, Fagles translation
Shakespeare, Othello
Bolt, A Man For All Seasons, Vintage

     I have selected for analysis from literature and history six exceptional and noteworthy depictions of human behavior in six major titles beginning with The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known story in Western literature, and concluding with Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons, a dramatic depiction of the moral and political conflicts which culminated in the martyrdom of Sir Thomas More during the reign of Henry VIII in Sixteenth Century England.
    Our approach to these works will be to examine the actions and behaviors of each of their central characters, particularly the ways each addresses three of Life's fundamental questions:

 1. From where did I come?

 2. What is, or should be, the purpose of my relatively brief existence?

 3. What lies after my inevitable death?

     And finally: To what extent and in what respects are responses to these three questions interrelated -- for us today, as well as for the individuals in the works considered?

     From our examination of our six characters' responses to these timeless questions will emerge a pattern of what I have chosen to call "heroic example," a pattern of behavior that, while in many respects most human, sets these six figures apart from most more ordinary human beings.

     Briefly, therefore, one could say that this course has been designed in an attempt to reflect traditional Western values, beliefs, and behaviors through an examination of six heroic examples from history and literature that will, with luck, evoke in each of us unique possibilities for heroic action and behavior in the opening decade of this new millennium.


     Let me assure you that I fully appreciate your dilemma as a struggling undergraduate with too much to do and, as you perceive it, inevitably too little time and energy to accomplish what must be done.  (One never forgets those days!)  Naturally, because you are constantly pressed for time, you are compelled to take short cuts, and therein lies a potentially disruptive situation, since any attempt to take a short cut places one in a vulnerable position in which one will be tempted (or "required") to compromise one’s standards in order to "get what one wants."

     With this thought in mind, I offer the following suggestions and directives:

     Keeping up with the reading schedule will be vital to success in the class.  Various assignments – particularly those related to quizzes on forthcoming discussions and responses made to discussion boards – will have deadlines that must be met.  (There will be no “make-ups” since the course must move on.)  However, because of the time flexibility, this should not be a serious problem. Although you will not always be able to complete the reading assignments thoroughly, make an earnest effort to complete them; otherwise, frustration will follow.

•     Have the courage -- or, at least, don't be reluctant -- to reflect your intelligence and your intellectual curiosity on the Discussion Boards.  For those of you with reticent personalities who are generally reluctant participate actively in regular classroom discussions, our online discussions will appear ideal.  Faceless responses, because they must be both written and read carefully, are often more powerful and persuasive than even the best give-and-take in a traditional classroom.

•     The very nature of the use of a site such as Blackboard, the Internet and the devices through which we connect to it, is potentially fraught with malfunctions.  Various problems are certain to arise, though I trust they will be minor and short-lived: in our computers, printers, software, and the great Blackboard (so central to our operation) itself.  Nevertheless, such legendary “my computer ate my homework” explanations will not serve as an excuse for prior planning and resourceful actions.

•     Because the Internet offers the largest and most easily accessible reservoir of information ever made available to the human race, I enthusiastically encourage its use via a modest web page "Woodiel's Humanities Links": http://uhaweb.hartford.edu/WOODIEL/.  This site, designed especially for this course, contains a list of readings, along with a variety of links and images related to the readings.  The links I have provided, however, are obviously only a fraction of those available relating to the titles we will be considering.  This Website is also accessible via a menu bar on the opening page established for this course on the U of H Blackboard network, which will be used extensively in this course for a variety of activities in addition to e-mail exchanges.

     Requirements [subject to revision]

        1. Assigned number of contributions to discussion boards.
        2.   Unannounced quizzes on assigned reading.
        3. Short in-class writing assignments (at least one per unit) on assigned questions.
        4. One relatively short (approximately three to five double-spaced pages) out-of-class essay.
        5.    A final exam


     In an ideal university, perhaps, fusty matters such as letter grades and recorded attendance would be ignored.  In this class, however, grades are required and attendance is mandatory.  Nor is this course one for an auditor or one that can be “accessed” from afar.   Absences will definitely detract from your grade.  A third absence will result in a grade deduction, and a sixth absence will, for all practical purposes, constitute a failure.
     Of course, exceptions can be made for genuine emergencies -- particularly if they are considered in advance.

               A Few Words Re Grades

  Your grade will be weighted according to the following:

    In-class Written Responses 35%
    Discussion Boards   30%
    Independent Essay   20%
    Final Exam    15%


            A Final Caution

 Should you become at any point “lost in the material,” or have difficulty keeping up with the reading or completing the essay, or feel you're falling behind where you'd like to be, let me know when you first sense a difficulty rather than during the last week of class when it's too late either to remedy your problem or to recover from your having delayed acknowledging it.

 Good luck!

Dale P. Woodiel

E-Mail: woodiel@mail.hartford.edu

Schedule Spring 2009

                                Tuesday                                                          Thursday

                                                                                           Jan.  22 Epic of Gilgamesh

                     27 Epic of Gilgamesh                                           29 Epic of Gilgamesh

              Feb. 3 Epic of Gilgamesh                                              5 Epic of Gilgamesh

                     10 Joseph Story                                                    12 Joseph Story

                     17 Joseph Story                                                     19 Joseph Story

                     24 Oedipus Rex                                                     26 Oedipus Rex

             Mar.  3 Oedipus Rex                                                       5 Oedipus Rex

                     10 Antigone                                                            12 Antigone

                                                       17-19   Spring Break  

                     24 Antigone                                                            26 Antigone

                     31 Othello                                                        Apr. 2 Othello

                       7 Othello                                                                  9 Othello

                     14 Othello                                                                16 A Man For All Seasons

                     21 A Man For All Seasons                                     23 A Man For All Seasons

                     28 A Man For All Seasons                                     30 A Man For All Seasons

            May   5      Final Class Meeting


                         Final Exams:  T-Th. 8:00 Thursday, May 7  2-4 P.M.
                                                      T-Th. 9:25 Saturday, May 9, 8-10 A.M.