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Ancient Medieval Soul

ENGL 706.401
also offered as: GREK 608, COML 610
Monday 1:45-4:45pm


Ancient and Medieval Theories and Therapies of the Soul


Instructors: Rita Copeland and Ralph Rosen

(Spring, 2022)


This seminar focuses on premodern conceptions of the ‘soul’, the force felt to animate and energize a human body for as long as it was considered alive, and to activate virtually all aspects of its behavior through time. Premodern concepts of the soul attempted to account for a person’s emotions and desires, perceptions, thoughts, memory, intellect, moral behavior, and sometimes physical condition. The course will trace the various ancient theories of the soul from the Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle, Stoic thought in Greek and Latin, medical writers (Hippocratics, Hellenistic doctors, Galen), and Neoplatonists, to the medieval receptions and transformations of ancient thought, including Augustine and Boethius, Avicenna’s interpretation of Aristotle and its medieval influence, and Aquinas and other later medieval ethicists.  These premodern conceptions of the soul have a surprisingly long afterlife, reaching into the literary cultures and psychological movements of early modernity and beyond.


Knowledge of Greek or Latin not required, but see the following: The seminar will meet for one two-hour session per week, and a separate one-hour ‘breakout’ session during which students who have registered for GREK 609 will meet to study a selection texts in Greek, and students who have registered for ENGL 706 or its COML equivalent will meet to discuss medieval or early modern texts relevant to their fields of study.

fulfills requirements