This course, the first of a year-long sequence, is a reading course in ancient and classical civilization. We will be reading a number of texts that are considered essential in the study of civilization and its later development. The course will range over a broad selection of topics, perhaps beginning with the idea of civilization itself. What is civilization, what values do we place upon it and how can we study it? Since Humanities 111 deals with the ancient world per se, we will then move on to texts produced in the ancient civilizations of the Near East and the Mediterranean. We will study literary texts that ancient societies produced in order to give shape to their thoughts on the nature of human existence, ranging from the important genre of heroic epic, to drama and philosophy.
Throughout all of these different texts, a few central questions and ideas will demand our attention. Among these, we might mention: “How does the ancient individual situate himself or herself in the external contexts which make life either meaningful or meaningless?” These include his or her natural world and the forces of nature themselves, in contrast to the culture in which he or she lives. These questions will be viewed as of central importance in many of the texts we will read together. They are questions that bother Gilgamesh, Achilles, Antigone, Plato and Freud, and each text has different points to make about them.
In addition to the question of the individual and society, another interesting topic of study one may consider is the founding and reformation of a “tradition”. This is a point that is most clearly seen in studying the texts from the ancient Greco-Roman world we will be looking at. Homer’s poetry, even to the ancient Greeks themselves, was seen as the first and defining moment of their culture. This vision of a culture, we will see, is then carried forward, modified and reacted to in later works. As a culture progresses, it sees itself as going beyond the limitations of the traditional, and “new” forms of social organization and expression emerge. How such a tradition is built up over time, how and in what ways it is modified as time passes, are also issues we will be able to trace, both in the texts of this course and in Humanities 112.
The course has a few central objectives, and it may be of use to comment on these from the outset.
First: it is hoped that you will read the texts we have selected, not in short excerpts, or through the filter of some paraphrase, but rather to read them for yourselves: to learn to evaluate them and appreciate them on their own terms, and to discuss their significance intelligently with your classmates and your instructor. Thus this course demands from you the employment of certain skills: careful reading, critical thinking, and intelligent expression (both verbal and written). Your own active engagement with these texts is thus essential to your success in this course.
Second: you will be reading, perhaps for the first time, works that have for better or worse been given the label of “classics”. These texts and the ideas they contain have influenced generations of thinkers throughout the centuries. They are, in short, worth reading, and are an essential part of any university student’s program of study. It is hoped that by reading them and following the connections between them, CCI students will benefit by developing a clearer sense of how and why the modern world developed.
Third: reading of major thinkers and discussion of challenging questions goes beyond providing a merely professional training. The skills you will develop by thinking, talking and writing about the materials in this course are obviously not job specific, but are certainly crucial for a successful career in any field and, more importantly, for a fulfilling life. Hopefully, your work in this course will help you deal critically, effectively, and creatively with the cultural, political, ethical, social and economic issues that you will confront in your own lives.
The following books are required for this course. If you are enrolled in this course, you must purchase these books at the university bookstore. Other editions or translations will not be accepted. You may not be admitted to class if you do not have a copy of the text with you.
- The Epic of Gilgamesh, George (tr.), Penguin, 2003
- Homer, the Iliad, Fagles (tr.), Penguin, 1990
- Sophocles: The Three Theban Plays, Fagles (tr.), Penguin, 1984
- Plato, Republic, Grube (tr.), Hackett, 1992
Or (check with your professor)
- Plato, Last Days of Socrates, Tarrant/Tredennick (trs.), Penguin 2003
Some sections may be required to read:
- Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, Strachey (tr.), Norton, 1961
In addition to the primary texts listed above, you will also from time to time be assigned additional texts. These texts have been assembled for you in your instructor’s personal CCI 111 Course Reader, which you may be required to photocopy. Please ask your instructor for specific details as to where to find the course reader materials, as each instructor’s packet and preparation will differ.
Midterm Course Project 30%, Final Exam 30%, Regular Quizzes and Short Assignments 30%, Participation 10%
Regular Quizzes and Short Assignments
Every instructor of CCI will give regular short assignments or reading quizzes throughout the semester. Students can expect a quiz one every two weeks. These assignments or short quizzes will be used to ensure students are doing the assigned course readings and are prepared to discuss the course material. The quizzes are also a useful way for students to monitor their progress in the course throughout the semester.
It will be very difficult to do well in this course if you do not participate; that means not only preparing for class and handing in all required assignments on time, but also doing your best to share your knowledge in class, both through writing and speaking. Last but certainly not least, participation also includes regular attendance. Missing classes will adversely affect your grade, and will make it difficult to do well in the other components of the class.
Midterm Course Project
One of your major assignments this semester will consist of a course project, the conditions of which will be determined by your course instructor. The nature of this major assessment will be different for each HUM instructor, and may consist of an examination, a research paper, group project, reading blog, journal, etc. Your CCI professor will make the details of this project known to you in class at the appropriate time, and certainly with enough fair warning for you to complete it.
There is a comprehensive final examination in this class: It will consist of a two-hour, sit-down format, and essay based examination. The final exam will be comparative and comprehensive, based on all of the texts and lectures from the beginning to the end of the semester.
All sections of Cultures, Civilizations, and Ideas use the following grading scale: A = 93-100; A- = 90-92; B+ = 87-89; B = 83-86; B- = 80-82; C+ = 77-79; C = 73-76; C- = 70-72; D+ = 67-69; D = 66-60; F = below 60. The lowest passing grade is a D.
According to university policy, missing more that 20% of taught hours of any class constitutes automatic failure.
Please Note: Approved Medical Reports for class absences entitle a student to make up any assessment given during the time the student was absent. However, Medical Reports do not excuse students from attendance requirements.
Punctuality and Deadlines
Students are expected to be in class on time and turn in assignments on the day that they are due. Unpunctuality and missed deadlines are unacceptable.
All of the work you do for this class is assumed to be your own. Work that is not your own must be indicated as such. All sources quoted, paraphrased, consulted or used in any way must be cited in keeping with standards of academic honesty. Such sources may include other texts, material posted on the web, or ideas obtained from other students. Bilkent clearly defines what plagiarism is: see “Bilkent University Policy on Academic Honesty” under “Academic Polices and Documents.”
Plagiarism is a serious offense, and is strongly penalized in all sections of Civilization, Cultures, and Ideas. Any act of plagiarism, no matter how small, automatically means a zero (0%) for the assignment at a minimum. The penalty could be much more severe, however, including failing the course. In addition, however, every act of plagiarism will be reviewed in accordance with university-wide guidelines, which could mean suspension or dismissal from the university. Students are strongly urged to familiarize themselves now with university policy concerning plagiarism:
Kopya ve İntihal (Plagiarism)
Madde 4.9- http://w3.bilkent.edu.tr/www/lisans-ve-on-lisans-egitim-ogretim-yonetmeligi/
CLUSTER I: INTRODUCTION: OR, THE IDEA OF CULTURE
Major Text: Freud, Civilization and its Discontents
Many sections of HUM 111 will begin with a preliminary study of culture as an idea. Our text is the highly influential Civilization and its Discontents, by Sigmund Freud. This is a work difficult to categorize, simultaneously historical, philosophical, anthropological, and psychoanalytic, and touches upon many of the questions we will be pursuing this semester. In it, civilization is the story of a collaboration or conflict between culture (the community) and the individual (the subject).
CLUSTER II: “FOUNDING CULTURES”: EPIC I
Major Texts: Gilgamesh; Iliad
When does culture begin? Does it begin? Epic literature is a genre of writing through which a cultural community represents and relates its origins. We will examine two such “founding” texts from two cultures: Mesopotamian (Gilgamesh), and Greek (Iliad). The Mesopotamian epic preserved and reproduced for many centuries and in many different ancient Near Eastern cultures and languages, provides a good basis of comparison, from a literary standpoint, of many of the ideas we have discussed in Freud. The Iliad, a much fuller and richer epic, stands at the beginning of Greek, Roman, and European literature. The Iliad’s art and concepts we will see built upon and reacted to in other texts this semester.
CLUSTER III: POLIS I/TRAGEDY
Major Text: Antigone or King Oedipus
It is difficult, in classical Greek civilization, to separate the individual from the city or polis. But the more the individual appears to enter into conflict with the community, the more the identity of the individual seems to be tied to that community. Tragedy may be viewed as an articulation of or response to this tension between the individual and the larger social or political order. As a poetical form, it is interesting to contrast the ambitions and styles of tragic and epic poetry.
CLUSTER IV: POLIS II/PHILOSOPHY
Major Text: Republic
Plato’s Politeia or Republic is a utopian conception, an image of the ideal social order. That order rests in part upon certain recurrent motifs that are central to Plato’s work: the theory of forms, the primacy of philosophical thought, the demands of ethical life, and a critique of the imitative arts (for example, epic and tragedy). Some sections, in lieu of reading the Republic, will focus on some short dialogues of Plato, relating to the life and death of Socrates.