Prof. William H. Lowe
Matthews, R.T. and F.D. Platt. The Western Humanities. Vol 1.
Readings in the Western Humanities, Vol. 1
Supplementary materials may be introduced from time to time.
The subject of Humanities 201 is Western civilization and culture from prehistory through the
For our purposes, the term culture refers to the sum of human endeavors; methods and
practices for survival; political, economic, and social institutions; and values, beliefs, and the
arts. Civilization refers to the ways people live in complex political, economic, and social
structures, usually in urban settings, and generally after making certain technological and
artistic advances. Culture is passed from one generation to another by human behavior,
speech, and artifacts; civilization is transmitted primarily by writing.
By the West we mean that part of the globe that lies west of Asia and Asia Minor and north
of Africa, especially Europe. The Western tradition, however, is not confined to Europe as
defined today; it includes important – often decisive -- contributions by peoples who lived
beyond “European” boundaries, such as those who created the first civilizations in
Mesopotamia and Egypt, as well as those who lived in North Africa and the Near East until
their absorption in the 7th century CE by Islam.
In our studies, we will focus on three major themes whose development and interplay have
shaped the distinctive characteristics that set Western civilization apart from other great
historic cultures. These themes are:
1. The growth of a tradition of rational scientific inquiry
2. The tension between religious ideals and social realities
3. The emergence of constitutional forms of government
Because these three themes encompass a wide range of other important issues and
features, they provide solid footholds for our inquiry which will focus on: Prehistory;
Mesopotamia; Egypt; The Aegean Civilizations (Minoans and Myceneans); The Greeks
(early, classical, 4th century, and Hellenistic); The Romans (Republic and Empire); and the
early, middle, and late Middle Ages.
Objectives and Outcomes
At the end of the course, students will be able to:
1. Recall significant events, achievements, problems, and people from the periods
2. Compare and contrast various historical and archeological theories about the
development of civilizations
3. Understand technical terms used in the field of the Humanities
4. Identify in context significant aspects of various cultures – the arts, architecture,
literature, religion, music, and philosophy
5. Assess various cultural “masterpieces,” applying appropriate evaluative criteria to
specific pieces of literature, architecture, and art
6. Write lucid, well-structured, sufficiently documented short essays on topics of interest
7. Take effective class and reading notes
8. Contribute to class discussion and respond thoughtfully and respectfully to the views
The class generally is structured around (1) introductory lectures and (2) class discussion
centering on the text and handouts. Students will be expected to discuss the meaning of new
ideas introduced in each section, supplying additional examples of their own, and to do
homework on new material and ideas. In this way, the instructor can see how well students
understand new material and focus more quickly on difficulties. Review is frequent, to
ensure that students are making connections among sections and grasping new material as
Independent and collaborative assignments, lectures on strategies for learning, and multi-
media student presentations also are used in class. Students will also make use of the KKC
library and technology, as well as school or home Internet connections to relevant web
Assessments and Grading
Assessments will include frequent quizzes, unit tests, and short (two-page) reports on
relevant topics, as well as a mid-term and final examination. In general, quizzes, unit tests,
and reports will count for about 70% of the semester grade, the mid-term and final
examinations for approximately 15% each. While class attendance, comportment, and
contributions will be monitored, there is no special “participation” grade; participation will,
however, count as a “tie-breaker” for students whose grade are close (within a percentage
point of two) of a higher grade).
Papers, projects and exams should be written in academic English, in your own words, using
the principles taught in the English Department. Students should address the question(s)
asked, and demonstrate critical thinking skills such as comparing, contrasting, analyzing,
and interpreting material.
Grades will be assigned as follows:
Academic honesty is important and valued at Kennedy-King and in this class. Presenting the
work of another as your own, however obtained (by cheating--personally or electronically--,
plagiarism, and so forth) is a serious offense. Each and every violation results in an
automatic zero for that assignment; each and every violation also is referred to the Dean of
Students should plan to take quizzes and examinations on the day on which they are
scheduled. If a student has a conflict, this must be discussed with the instructor in advance.
There will be no make-up quizzes or examinations and late papers will not be accepted for
In line with KKC’s overall focus on educational engagement, ownership, and sustainability,
RESPECT – for the course material and your fellow students -- is central to success.
Students will be expected to:
Attend class regularly
Arrive in class on time (announcements, lectures, etc. will not be repeated)
Complete homework assignments on time
Participate actively in class discussions
Learning requires attentiveness and genuine discussion requires order. Therefore:
Side conversations, snacking, and other forms of rudeness that disrupt class
discussion will not be tolerated
Cell phones must be set to “vibrate” and other electronics -- pagers, beepers,
headset radios, CD players, Ipods, and recording devices -- must be turned off
before entering class
Food, drink, and children are not permitted in class.
Students who need additional help with assigned sections of the material or research or who
wish to discuss their work in the course should arrange to see the instructor before or after
class, or during scheduled office hours.