Courses for Summer 2014

LST 7100:  FOUNDATION/ANCIENT:  ALEXANDRIA: FROM ALEXANDER THE GREAT TO THE “ARAB SPRING”

Dr. Christopher Haas
R 6:15-9:30 p.m.

In 330 BC, Alexander the Great founded a port city just west of the Nile delta and named it after himself.  Even if Alexander had not gone on to conquer much of the ancient world, this one act would have merited for him his title, “the Great.”  Within a few short centuries, Alexandria had become the second largest city in the Roman world and served as the principal conduit for trade between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.  This thriving cosmopolis also became one of the ancient world’s preeminent intellectual centers due to the scholarship fostered in the Museion, a celebrated think-tank founded by the Ptolemaic kings.  The Museion’s scientists, mathematicians, and literary critics were aided in their researches by the presence of the Great Library which housed the single largest collection of texts in western Eurasia. 

The unique cultural mix of this vast city also attracted the largest Jewish community outside of Palestine and produced intellectuals like Philo who exerted a profound influence upon later Christian thinkers.  Christianity took root in Alexandria during the first century and soon became a leading center for the development of theology, exegesis, and the burgeoning monastic movement.  Despite sometimes violent conflict between the city’s pagan, Jewish, and Christian communities, Alexandria maintained its position as the eastern Mediterranean’s preeminent intellectual and commercial entrepôt even after the Arab conquest in 642 AD.  Although the city fell into decline with the growing ascendancy of Cairo, by the late 18th century, with the intervention of colonial European powers in Egypt’s affairs, Alexandria again became a vital link between Egypt and the Mediterranean world.  Today it is Egypt’s second city and it exerts a wide influence on politics and culture throughout the Arab world and beyond.

This course will employ a multi-disciplinary approach to piece together the story of Alexandria and its unrivaled place in Mediterranean cultural history.  Besides literary accounts, both ancient and modern, we will examine inscriptions, papyrus documents, ancient coins, and ancient artistic representations.  The past thirty years have witnessed astonishing archaeological discoveries, both on land and under the waves of Alexandria’s harbors, which have provided scholars with spectacular new material with which we can reconstruct life in the ancient city.

Besides these various historical methodologies, the course will also employ theoretical work in urban morphology, post-colonial studies, and modern Middle Eastern politics (including Alexandria’s role in the “Arab Spring”) to more fully appreciate the city usually called by the ancients “Most-glorious Alexandria.”

LST 7101  FOUNDATION/MODERN: MEMORY, HISTORY AND IDENTITY

Dr. Gregory Hoskins

T 6:15-9:30 p.m.

The link between memory and personal and collective identity is primordial.  Memory serves to both teach and remind us of who we are, of the web of relations that link and bind us with others (in the past, in the present, and with those to come), and of for what we might dare hope.  However, the very value of memory, and of a certain conception of identity, has been increasingly challenged by the advent of “modernity.”  Significant philosophical, scientific, economic, and cultural changes have worked to devalue memory and an active relation to the past. These changes include: the Scientific Revolution, the critique of representational truth, and the development and dominance of capitalism, consumerism, and the mass media.

In this seminar we will explore such questions as: What is memory? What are the ethical and political features and implications of memory? Is there ever a duty to remember? Is it ever necessary to forget? How is personal and collective identity formed, and what role does memory play in this process? Finally, if as many commentators claim, the contemporary era is a “post-modern” era, what does this development entail for the link between memory and identity?

Maurice Halbwachs, a pioneer of the sociological study of memory, provides the over-arching organizational thread of the course: all memory, including individual autobiographical memory, is socially mediated, and it is mediated by various “social frameworks.” In the first part of the course we will explore the nature of memory and its relation to an individual’s identity, never losing sight of the social mediations that impact this relation.  In the second part of the course we will turn to questions of collective identity, never forgetting that individuals stand in complex relations with the groups with which they identify. We will take a philosophical approach to our texts and these issues– that is, we will work towards analytic clarity of the key concepts – but we will also be attentive to how we as individuals and as groups perform, or make manifest, our sense of who we are and what/how we remember. Besides utilizing philosophical works in our investigation, we will draw on theological, psychological, sociological, historical, political, architectural, and literary resources. “Test-cases” for the conceptual work in the class include the continuing memory of the American Civil War and the current discussion about how to memorialize the victims of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01.

LST 7300   AFRICAN AMERICAN POLITICAL THOUGHT

Professor Richard Schiffrin
M 6:15-9:30 p.m.

(American Studies, Peace and Justice, and Great Books)

This course will examine such concepts as justice, freedom, and citizenship through the speeches and writings of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Abraham Lincoln. A number of landmark Supreme Court decisions will also be read. By carefully studying these great thinkers, we will attempt to better understand the concepts and also more fully appreciate the contribution these men made to modern political thought.

Reading List:

Douglass, Frederick, Philip Sheldon Foner, and Yuval Taylor, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings.

Selected Speeches of Abraham Lincoln

W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, and other selected writings.

Selected speeches and writings of Booker T. Washington.

Supreme Court Decisions:

Plessy v. Ferguson, Dred Scott v. Sanford, Brown v. Board of Education


 


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Liberal Studies

The Enlightenment . . . The Renaissance. . . War and Peace. . . The Fall of the Roman Empire. . . The novels of Jane Austen. . . The American Founding. . . The plays of Shakespeare. . . The Civil Rights Movement. . . The Reformation. . . .

These are examples of ideas, books, people, and events that have truly changed the world. What is the best way to study them? History, literature, philosophy, theology, political science, languages – all of these disciplines have something important to say. But how is it possible to combine such different courses into just one master’s degree? The answer is Liberal Studies.