Fall 2023 Courses

Great Texts Upper-Level Courses - Fall 2023

Middle Ages (GTX 3320)
Dr. Sarah Jane Murray – MW 2:30 – 3:45

Myths and legends assembled and reworked by Ovid in his Metamorphoses — Narcissus, Pygmalion, and so many more — serve as a key foundation for the Western tradition. Many authors like Dante, Chaucer, and even Shakespeare encountered them in the context of Christian, allegorizing rereadings and rewritings. This course explores the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual cultures of the European Middle Ages through the lens of the most influential textual transmission of classical mythology to medieval and early modern writers and artists: the Moralized Ovid, a text contemporary to Dante’s Comedy and composed in neighboring France, and until now, accessible only in Old French. Thanks to the first translation (pioneered by Dr. SJ Murray), students in this course will be the first non-old French readers to explore it in depth, with close attention to its nature as a “great text” that fuses mythical, literary, philosophical, and theological traditions. We will read with attention to the manuscript tradition, its illuminations (painted illustrations), and in relation to Dante’s Purgatory, as well as key excerpts from Aquinas, Bonaventure, Augustine, and the mythographic tradition. Students will be guided by the co-translators of the text, through close mentorship by Dr. SJ Murray, and with guest visits from Dr. Boyd (PhD, Harvard). They will also have the opportunity to participate in class activities to earn an IMBb credit on a film about the OM in development for public media.

Great Texts in the Origins of Science (GTX 3343)
Dr. Eric Martin – MW 4:00 – 5:15

 If humans have always sought to understand the world, what is distinctive about the methods, philosophies, or institutions that developed from antiquity to the Early Modern period that we recognize today as “science”? What characterizes scientific inquiry, and does science have the ultimate authority to pronounce on matters of reality? How were religious world views entwined in the beginnings of scientific thought, and has science now superseded religious understanding? This course will investigate such questions through engagement with primary texts in the origins of science, including selections from Aristotle, Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, and Boyle. The class will help students navigate difficult questions about science’s multifaceted history, its place in society, and its philosophical significance.

Great Texts on the Principles of the Liberal Arts (GTX 3360)
Dr. William Weaver – TR 11:00 – 12:15

An introduction to how historical disciplines of grammar, logic, and rhetoric have shaped and continue to shape the reading and writing of great texts. Primarily designed for students exploring vocations in teaching great texts and/or graduate study in the humanities, it is open to all interested in thinking through vocation in terms of classical ideals of learning. Through an examination of representative texts and traditions we will get in focus a vision for ordering study within a capacious and inspiring framework. 

Great Texts of the 18th & 19th Centuries (GTX 4320)
Dr. Alan Jacobs - TR 2:00 – 3:15

Starting in the latter third of the eighteenth century, a series of social and political movements arose that permanently and radically transformed Western culture, and indeed the whole world. Wholly new political philosophies were devised; and a new literary genre, the novel, emerged to chronicle the experiences of people whose lives were being turned upside down. In this class we will chronicle some of these massive transformations.  Texts will include many but not all of the following: • Voltaire, Candide; • Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract; • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France; • Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman; • Jane Austen, Mansfield Park;  • Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling; • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty; • George Eliot, Middlemarch; • Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals; • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

Masterworks in Theology: Groundbreaking Theological Texts
of the 19th and 20th Centuries (GTX 4332)
Dr. Barry Harvey - MW 2:30 - 3:45

The challenges faced by theologians in the aftermath of the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement were unlike anything they had encountered previously. Theology was no longer the queen of the sciences, relegated to the margins in European culture, and to a lesser extent in the United States. Theologians responded to these challenges in a variety of ways. In the process the discipline of theology diversified, both in terms of method and in context. To develop a sense of this diversity we shall study texts by authors such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, John Henry Newman, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Barth, Henri de Lubac, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy L. Sayers, Paul Tillich, Gustavo Gutierrez, Pope Benedict XVI, and M. Shawn Copeland.

Confession and Autobiography (GTX 4351)
Dr. Kristen Drahos - TR 3:30 – 4:45

This course explores the many and various ways that people write the stories of their lives. Who am I? What is my story? Do I even have a story? If so, in what way can I tell it? To whom do I address it? To answer these questions, we will delve into various ways that narratives embrace coherence, chaos, witness, self-understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. Texts may include: Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Catalina de Erauso, Rousseau, Tolstoy, Harriet Jacobs, C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Day, and James Baldwin.

Internship in the Liberal Arts (GTX 4361)
Dr. Phillip Donnelly – MW 4:00 – 5:15

In the age of ChatGPT, few questions seem more urgent than, “Why bother to learn anything at all?” In electronic culture, the activities of intellectual inquiry and persuasion tend to be reduced to those elements that can be replicated by economies of scale.  As a result, digital culture encourages the belief that a download of information—involving no persons—may constitute knowledge transmission.  This vision of knowledge often includes the verbal liberal arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric.  In such a context, the interpersonal aspects of both intellectual inquiry and persuasion that cannot be mass-produced for profit tend to drop from consideration.  This course focuses on those aspects of personal encounter that cannot be scaled for mass production: namely, dialectical accountability and real-time apprenticeship in verbal persuasion.  It provides a pedagogically-oriented internship in the liberal art of rhetoric through: 1) practice in both direct instruction and open inquiry; 2) training in the interpretive skills needed for leading others to share insights regarding the verbal arts themselves and regarding a variety of textual genres (including imaginative literature, philosophy, and theology) using the categories of dialectical and rhetorical analysis. Required texts for the course include Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student as well as a selection of ancient Great Texts.  Ultimately, this internship offers an inter-personal alternative to the information exchange that often passes for learning in the digital age.

Pre-requisites: GTX 3360 or GTX 3361 or the permission of the instructor.

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Waco, TX 76798

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