First-Year Seminar: Crisis and Culture
Humanities 120
MWF 12:00-12:50, Spring 2001

Professor: Dan White
Office: Wyatt 341, x. 3428
Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00-4:30, Friday 3:00-4:30, or by appointment
Home Phone: (206) 328-5548 (Discretion is advised)

Course Focus: This course has two purposes.

First, it is an investigation of the ways in which individuals and communities respond to cultural crisis and transformation. This semester, we will examine three moments in Western culture when traditional and dominant beliefs and practices were called into question and reevaluated: the crisis of religion and law in late fifth-century Athens, of gender and power in Europe during the Middle Ages, and of public order and the individual in England and France during the early Romantic period, the late-eighteenth-century "Age of Revolution."

Second, this is an intensive course in writing. In college, writing is both a way of discovering and exploring as well as expressing ideas. In keeping with the objectives of the University Communication I (or Written Communication) core requirement, you will write in order to improve your abilities to "assimilate information, express ideas, evaluate arguments, analyze material, and organize research." Writing is a process, and it is never easy, nor should it be. By sharpening your skills in critical thinking, developing your intellectual independence, and teaching you the fundamental techniques of argumentation and close reading, this course will prepare you for the rigorous and challenging exploration of ideas that is at the heart of a liberal arts education.

Requirements: Three papers (5, 5, 8-10 pp.), research presentation, in-class writing and revision exercises, class participation, attendance. The due dates for all papers are in boldface below, and every piece of writing that you submit to me or to other students must be computer-printed in Times New Roman 12 with one-inch margins, titled, double-spaced, paginated and stapled (if more than one page), and, above all, presentable.

Grading: Your grade will be a combination of the three papers (50%), research presentation (10%), revision exercises (20%), and class participation (20%). Please buy a folder in which to keep all your written work. Each time the final version of a paper is due, please hand in the entire folder, which, in addition to the paper, must also include only the following: all previously graded papers, your draft of the present paper, and the "Papers: Expectations, Guidelines, Advice, and Grading" handout. Please do not include assignments, drafts of previous papers, revision exercises, or your own notes. If the folder does not follow these guidelines, I will return it to you and mark down the paper one part of a grade for each day the folder is late. I expect you to attend each scheduled class, emergencies excepted. If you need to miss a class for any reason, you must notify me by e-mail in advance. Each unexcused absence up to three will result in a progressive lowering of your final grade, and if you miss three or more meetings, you will receive an F for the course. Finally, class participation constitutes 25% of your final grade; passivity will not be acceptable in this class! If you have difficulty engaging in public discussion, please see me.

Texts: The following texts, available at the Campus Book Store, are required for this course:


Cluster I: Sophocles, Religion, and the Law


January 17


January 19

The Parthenon


January 22

No class
Read Kurt A. Raaflaub, "The Transformation of Athens in the Fifth Century"

January 24

No class

January 26

Film, "The Greeks"
Two-page exercise due: Argumentation and Close Reading


January 29

No class

January 31

Sophocles, Oedipus the King

February 2

Oedipus the King (continued)


February 5

No class

February 7

Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus

February 9

Oedipus at Colonus (continued)


February 12

Sophocles, Antigone

February 14

Antigone (continued)

February 16

Writing Session


February 19

Draft of Paper #1 due

February 21

Revision exercise

February 23

Revision exercise

Cluster II: Gender and Power in the Middle Ages


February 26

Film: "Architecture of Transcendence"
Paper #1 due

February 28

Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love, Book One (27-150)

March 2

The Art of Courtly Love, Books Two and Three (151-212)


March 5

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

March 7

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (continued)

March 9

Writing Session



March 19

Draft of Paper #2 due

March 21

Revision Exercise

March 23

Paper #2 due

Cluster III: The Individual and the Crowd in the Age of Revolution


March 26

Peter Gay, "The Enlightenment in Its World," "Greece: From Myth to Reason," from The Enlightenment: An Interpretation

March 28

Sir Isaac Newton, from Letter to Richard Bentley, from "A Letter of Mr. Isaac Newton ... containing his New Theory about Light and Colors"; in-class reproduction of Newton's experiment with the prism, assisted by Professor of Physics Jim Evans

March 30

Jacques-Louis David, "The Oath of the Horatii," "The Tennis Court Oath"
David Lloyd Dowd, "Neoclassicism and the Revolution," from Pageant-Master of the Republic: Jacques-Louis David and the French Revolution


April 2

Research project: The French Revolution and the Crowd

April 4

Research project: The French Revolution and the Crowd

April 6

Research project: The French Revolution and the Crowd


April 9

Presentation by Group I: The Revolution and the Crowd in Paris

April 11

Presentation by Group II: The Revolution and the English Jacobins

April 13

Presentation by Group III: The Revolution and the English Anti-Jacobins


April 16

William Wordsworth, Preface to Lyrical Ballads (LB 241-72)

April 18

Wordsworth, "Simon Lee" (LB 60-63), "Anecdote for Fathers" (LB 64-66), "We are Seven" (LB 66-68)

April 20

Wordsworth, "Tintern Abbey" (LB 113-18)


April 23

Wordsworth, "Michael" (LB 226-40)

April 25

"Michael" (continued)

April 27

Writing Session


April 30

Revision Session

May 2

Paper #3 due (8-10 pp.)

Daniel E. White