This is the introductory course to the History of Ideas program, which is designed to expose students to some of the most important intellectual traditions in world history. In this course, we will explore fundamental questions about the human experience by highlighting the various ways that the ancients contemplated the relationship between submission to authority and the pursuit of freedom. Students will develop critical thinking and writing skills by engaging in the “close reading” of primary source texts, student-centered class discussions, and a progression of writing exercises that will culminate in the development of your own perspective on the relationship between authority and freedom.
Your final grade will ultimately depend on my assessment of your performance in each of the above areas, though the following descriptions should provide you with a rough idea of the defining characteristics of students within particular grade ranges:
By the end of the course, you will be able to compare and contrast major ideas expressed in texts and/or artistic works that are representative of diverse traditions from the ancient world.
MyJournalIn order to prepare for class discussions, you will write a 250-word reflection on the assigned reading for each class period. The reflection should not be a mere summary of points made by the author, but should focus on a single issue and draw on material from different parts of the reading. Reflections must be posted to “MyJournal” on Blackboard before the start of class; six of your reflections will be randomly graded over the course of the term and the lowest score will be dropped, for a total of 25% (5x5%). For guidelines on writing journal entries, see the MyJournal Rubric below.
Position Paper/Class Presentation
In addition to the MyJournal reading reflections, you will write a more formal 4-page (1000-word) position paper on the assigned reading for a class session that you will select on signupgenius.com. (Since there is only one slot for each class session, you should sign up as soon as possible to maximize your choices.) As with the reading reflections, you should focus on a single issue, but for this assignment you must explore the issue in more depth and develop a “thesis” — the main point that you hope to demonstrate in the body of the paper. Your paper should begin with an introduction that briefly discusses the issue that you will focus on and then concisely presents your thesis statement. The body of your paper should establish the author’s position on the issue through relevant quotes from the reading as well as your own interpretation of what the author is trying to say. In order to develop a meaningful thesis, however, you must go beyond interpretation by directly engaging the author’s argument: Why is the author’s position significant? Is it supported by sound reasoning? Does it rely on questionable assertions? Are there important factors that the author has not considered? Is there a more coherent perspective on the issue? While it is ultimately up to you to decide how to engage the author’s position, it is essential that your paper develops a particular position on the issue, which should be clearly expressed in your conclusion. Finally, you will make a five-minute presentation of your thesis during the class session that you selected on signupgenius.com. For presentation guidelines, see the Class Presentation Rubric below.
Topic Paper/Final PaperThe final assignment will be an 8-10 page paper (2000-word minimum) that explores the relationship between authority and freedom by examining positions that were developed in at least three of the texts from the course. As with the position paper, your interpretations of the texts should be supported by appropriate quotations, though I am ultimately interested in your own perspective on the issue in question. In other words, you should use the texts to highlight key points in your own argument for your thesis, which should be clearly stated in the introduction and fully developed in your conclusion. In order to help you develop an appropriate thesis for your paper, you will submit a 1-page (250-word) topic paper that identifies the issue you wish to explore, presents your thesis statement, and explains how you will use at least three texts from the course to support your thesis. For topic paper guidelines, see the Topic Paper Rubric below. Since this paper is worth a significant portion of your final grade (30% for the final paper plus 5% for the topic paper), you should expect to devote a considerable amount of time to this project; towards this end, I will be happy to meet with you individually to provide further guidance at any stage in the process.
The Class Participation mark (worth 20% of the final grade) will be based on your ability to demonstrate that you have made a sincere attempt to read and understand the assigned material. All attempts to seriously engage the readings — from sharing your perspective on the material to simply asking a relevant question — will contribute to your grade. You can further enhance your grade by posting comments on a Blackboard discussion forum that I call the BodhiBlog (“the blog that leads to enlightenment”). Although your mark will ultimately depend on my subjective evaluation of the quantity and quality of your participation efforts, you may reasonably expect to receive at least a “B” if you attend class regularly, actively participate in class discussions, and post at least three comments on the BodhiBlog.
All papers should be submitted on Blackboard/Assignments and must conform to the standards associated with one of the two main writing formats for the humanities: Chicago Style or MLA. References — both direct quotations and indirect references to the ideas of another author — should be properly cited according to the rules of your chosen format and must include page numbers so that the reference can be easily located. The position paper and final paper should also include a bibliography. Late submissions will be penalized a full grade (e.g. A to B) per day, so make sure that you give yourself enough time to complete these assignments! If you have any questions regarding what does or does not constitute plagiarism, please refer to the college’s plagiarism policy. Since I take plagiarism very seriously, I strongly recommend that you become familiar with the boundaries of academic honesty and don’t attempt to transgress them. Essays that contain significant instances of plagiarism will receive a 0 and be reported to the Office of Academic Affairs in accordance with college policy. All submitted work may be used (with names removed) for program assessment.
Office Hours, Etc.
Tuesday: 4-5 ¤ Tuesday: 2-4 ¤ Wednesday: 3-4 ¤ Friday: 3-4 ¤ Tea/Talk on Fridays from 4-5
¤ ¤ http://bhoffert.faculty.noctrl.edu
Class Presentation Rubric
Topic Paper Rubric