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Topics In Classical Background

ENGL 296.401
MWF 10

The goal of this course is to appreciate the thoughtfulness with which great authors struggle with the fundamental conflicts of human life--the choice between a long life and a heroic one, the conflict between the human laws and the laws of the gods, the quarrel between rhetoric and philosophy, the quarrel between poetry and philosophy, the conflict between virtue taught by tradition and virtue elected for its own sake. As this description suggests, we will treat these conflicts as philosophical problems. Hence the course will not be a treatment of the background to literary matters--the machinery of epic, the paraphernalia of pastoral, verse forms. Instead, it will be an introduction to the way classical authors thought about problems that modern authors struggled with as well. Readings will include Homer's Iliad, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Sophocles' Antigone, Herodotus' History of the Persian Wars, Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, Aristophanes' Clouds, and the following dialogues of Plato: Apology, Meno, Gorgias, Protagoras, Republic, and Phaedrus. Requirements: Four short papers (2 pages), one long paper, and final exam.

Note that this course will fulfill the Pre-1800 requirement for English Majors.