Basic Program of Liberal Education

Alumni Offerings

Alumni Sequences are two-year, curated courses of study that center on a specific era or culture while incorporating a mixture of texts from the larger Western tradition, continuing to deepen the conversation begun in the Core Curriculum. Students take one class per quarter in order, providing the same cohort experience as in the Core Curriculum Certificate.

Single Alumni courses are offered each quarter on a variety of topics based on student requests and instructors’ areas of scholarship.

 

Since the invention of the term medieval to name the interval between Classical Antiquity and the “rebirth” of the Renaissance, the Middle Ages have often been associated with benightedness: violence and repression, backwardness and ignorance. But this interval—of over ten centuries—is a vast and complex historical period that includes the transmission and transformation of classical thought as well as discontinuity with it; rationalism, skepticism, and mysticism as well as religious dogma; cultural contact and exchange as well as aggression and intolerance; and intense interest in subjectivity and personal experience even in the context of powerful institutions.

In this two-year Alumni Sequence, we will read some of the greatest works of the Middle Ages from a variety of cultures in conversation with texts produced before and after them in an effort to develop a sense of the richness and relevance of “the medieval.”

Autumn

Week Seminar
1-2 Paul, 1 Corinthians
3-5 Plotinus, Enneads
6-7 Beowulf
8-10 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Week Tutorial
1-10 Augustine, City of God

Winter

Week Seminar
1-3 Aristotle, De Anima
4-5 Ibn Tufayl, Hayy bin Yaqzan
6-7 Averroes, The Incoherence of the Incoherence
8-10 Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles
Week Tutorial
1-3 The Song of Roland
4-7 Ibn Munqidh, The Book of Contemplation
8-10 Villehardouin, The Conquest of Constantinople

Spring

Week Seminar
1-3 Piers Plowman
4 Everyman; The Second Shepherds’ Play
5-7 Spenser, The Faerie Queene
8-10 Poe and Hawthorne, selected stories
Week Tutorial
1-5 Boccaccio, Decameron
6-10 Icelandic Sagas

Autumn

Week Seminar
1 The Rule of St. Benedict
2-4 Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy
5-7 Hildegard von Bingen, Scivias
8-10 Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed
Week Tutorial
1-10 Dante, Purgatorio

Winter

Week Seminar
1-2 The Letters of Abelard and Heloise
3 Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs
4-5 Rumi, selected poems
6-7 Petrarch, selected poems
8-10 Nabokov, Lolita
Week Tutorial
1-8 De Lorris and de Meun, The Romance of the Rose
9-10 Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies

Spring

Week Seminar
1-4 The Arabian Nights
5-6 Marco Polo, The Description of the World
7-8 Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative
9-10 Calvino, Invisible Cities
Week Tutorial
1-10 Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

Corrupt politicians, scandalous celebrities, aggressive foreign policy, upheavals in cultural ideas about sexuality and marriage, income inequality, immigration problems, concerns about the justice system. Roman texts area a crucial part of Western civilization, but they are particularly important for Americans to read. From the influence on the Founding Fathers to the comparisons between the Roman Empire and modern America, the Roman Alumni Sequence will explore these issues by pairing the literature, philosophy, and history of Ancient Rome with other classic texts to continue the conversation begun in the four-year curriculum.

Autumn

Week Seminar
1-2 Plutarch, Lives (selections)
3-4 Shakespeare, Coriolanus
5-10 Machiavelli, Discourses
Week Tutorial
1-10 Livy, History Books 1-5

Winter

Week Seminar
1-5 Lucan, Pharsalia
6-7 Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
8-9 Thomas Paine, Common Sense
10 Lincoln, Cooper Union Address
Week Tutorial
1 Plutarch, Life of Cicero
2-3 Cicero, Verres, 2nd Philippic
4-6 Cicero, On Duties
7-8 Cicero, Selected Letters
9-10 Petrarch, Letters to Cicero

Spring

Week Seminar
1-5 Tacitus, Annals
6-8 Seneca, Letters from a Stoic
9-10 Paul, Epistle to the Romans
Week Tutorial
1-8 Petronius, Satyricon
9-10 Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Autumn

Week Seminar
1-3 Epictetus, Handbook and Discourses
4 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
5 Gospel of Luke
6-7 Acts of the Apostles
8-10 Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five
Week Tutorial
1-10 Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Selections)

Winter

Week Seminar
1-2 Catullus, selected poems
3-4 Vergil, Eclogues & Georgics
5-6 Horace, selected poems
7-10 Ovid, Metamorphoses
Week Tutorial
1-2 Hippocratic Writings
3-4 Vitruvius, On Architecture
5-7 Pliny the Elder, Natural History
8-9 Galen, On the Natural Faculties
10 Bacon, The Great Instauration and Novum Organum (Book 1)

Spring

Week Seminar
1-4 Apuleius, The Golden Ass
5-6 Paul, Epistle to the Ephesians
7-8 Plautus, Menaechmi
9-10 Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors
Week Tutorial
1-5 Polybius, The Histories (selections)
6-10 Montesquieu, Consideration on the Causes for the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline

From its founding—and even before—America was as much a contested ground of ideals as it was a geographic region or state. Democracy, religious freedom, the pursuit of individual happiness, self-reliance, and perhaps above all liberty: America’s history is the history of struggles over the meaning and implications of these ideals and their collision with American realities like the destruction of native populations, slavery, the exclusion of minorities, the excesses of capitalism, and a culture of consumption. In this sequence, we will explore all of these issues as we try to understand what America really is or aspires to be.

Autumn

Week Seminar
1-2 Edwards, sermons
3-6 Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation
7-8 Franklin, Autobiography
8-10 Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
Week Tutorial
1-10 The Federalist and Anti Federalist Papers

Winter

Week Seminar
1-4 Emerson, Essays
5-8 Thoreau, Walden
9-10 Carson, Silent Spring
Week Tutorial
1-10 Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Spring

Week Seminar
1-2 De las Casas, Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies
3-4 Douglass, Narrative
5-10 Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Week Tutorial
1 Lincoln, Peoria (1854)
2 Lincoln, House Divided (1858)
3-9 Lincoln, Lincoln-Douglas Debates (1858)
10 Lincoln, First Inaugural Address

Autumn

Week Seminar
1-2 Dickinson, poems
3-4 Crane, The Red Badge of Courage
5-6 Foote, Stars in their Courses
7-10 Twain, Huckleberry Finn
Week Tutorial
1-10 Melville, Moby-Dick

Winter

Week Seminar
1-3 James, Pragmatism
4-5 Supreme Court decisions
6-7 Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
8-10 Wallace Stevens, poems
Week Tutorial
1-2 Poe Short Stories
3-4 James Short Stories
5-6 Hemingway Short Stories
7-8 Faulkner Short Stories
9-10 O’Connor Short Stories

Spring

Week Seminar
1-2 Cather, My Antonia
3-5 O’Neill, Mourning Becomes Electra
6-7 Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
9-10 Niebuhr, The Irony of American History
Week Tutorial
1-10 McCarthy, Blood Meridian

Modernity is characterized by the emergence of an entirely new, unprecedented form of consciousness, one that is critical, uprooted, autonomous, and intensely self-reflexive. This two-year sequence is an exploration of the “modern tradition” through classic texts of the modern period (1750 through the middle of the twentieth century) in conversations with earlier classical and premodern sources.

In the first quarter, we explore the meaning and complexities of individualism in the modern period, beginning with “the discovery of the individual” around the early fifteenth century as both a social and political fact and a new, historically unprecedented reality. But what kind of discovery is this? What does it mean to be individual? This course will discuss several major philosophers and social theorists and what is perhaps the supreme literary exploration of the role of memory in the construction of the self: Proust's Swann’s Way.

Autumn

Week Seminar
1-3 Rousseau, The Social Contract
4-5 Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History
6-7 Tolstoy, “The Death of Ivan Ilych”
8-10 Heidegger, Being and Time (selections)
Week Tutorial
1-10 Proust, Swann’s Way

Winter

Week Seminar
1 Aristotle, Politics (selections)
2-4 Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism
5-6 Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground
7-10 Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Week Tutorial
1-5 Marx, The Marx-Engels Reader (selections)
6-10 Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

Spring

Week Seminar
1-2 DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
3-4 Ortega, The Revolt of the Masses
5-8 Ellison, The Invisible Man
9-10 Faulkner, “The Bear”
Week Tutorial
1-10 Modern poetry

Autumn

Week Seminar
1 Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”
2 Luther, “The Bondage of the Will”
3 Genesis + Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
4-6 Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
6-8 Freud, The Future of an Illusion
9-10 Tillich, The Courage to Be
Week Tutorial
1-8 Dostoyevsky, The Idiot
9-10 O’Connor, The Violent Bear It Away

Winter

Week Seminar
1-2 Presocratics
3-5 Shelley, Frankenstein
6-8 Darwin, The Descent of Man (selections)
9-10 Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Week Tutorial
1-6 Einstein, The Theory of Relativity
7-10 Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy

Spring

Week Seminar
1-3 Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (selections)
4-6 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (selections)
7-8 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (selections)
9-10 Berlin, “Two Concepts of Liberty”
Week Tutorial
1-2 Ibsen, “The Wild Duck”
3-4 Chekhov, “Three Sisters”
5 Pirandello, “Six Characters in Search of an Author”
6-7 Brecht, “Mother Courage and her Children”
8-9 O'Neill, “Long Day's Journey into Night”
10 Beckett, “Happy Days”