Humanities Series

The Humanities Series, an interdisciplinary, chronologically-structured series of four honors courses, introduces students to the big ideas, questions, and debates of the Western tradition. The series explores works of literature, philosophy, art, history, religion, and music from Homer to Toni Morrison, Plato to Rawls, Praxiteles to Rothko, Hildegard of Bingen to Louis Armstrong. Although the content of the course is largely within the Western tradition, the series does put emphasis, when appropriate, on how these Western works developed in conversation with works from non-Western cultures. While the historical periods represented in the series remain the same, the themes vary depending on the teaching faculty and selected texts. Past themes in these courses have included “Moral Justice” and “The Invention of Selfhood.”

The Humanities Series at the University of Missouri is the College’s longest-running course, engaging students since 1954, and has evolved over the years. The four courses in the series are taught by MU faculty members (many of them recipients of the university’s highest teaching awards) from art history and archaeology, classics, English, history, music, philosophy, religious studies, German and Russian studies, and Romance languages. Weekly guest lectures are followed by small-group sessions in which students share ideas with their professors and other honors students. Each Humanities Series course counts towards fulfilling the Humanities General Education requirements for all Schools and Colleges at the University of Missouri.

The Ancient World [GN_HON 2111H]

Offered every other fall semester, this course offers an interdisciplinary exploration of cultures in the Ancient World that formed the foundations of Western culture. The reading list includes great works of ancient literature and philosophy such as the Homeric epics, tragedies by Sophocles and Euripides, philosophical works of Plato and Aristotle, the Book of Job, Virgil’s Aeneid, Stoic and Epicurean texts, Horace’s poetry, Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians, and Apuleius’s Golden Ass. In addition, students will study the classical art and architecture of Greece and Rome. The theme of Fall 2013’s course is “Epic Destinies, Individual Journeys.”

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance [GN_HON 2112H]

Offered every other spring semester, this course explores Western culture from the last days of the Roman Empire through the Middle Ages to the flowering of art, music, literature, and philosophy in the Renaissance. The reading list includes philosophical and religious works by Augustine, al-Ghazali, Aquinas, Luther, and Machiavelli; selections from the Koran and from Christian mystics; medieval epics such as Beowulf and Song of Roland, as well as literature by Dante, Chaucer, Montaigne, and Shakespeare. Works such as the medieval cathedral of Chartres and the Renaissance artistry of Michelangelo, as well as selected medieval and Renaissance music, depict the major artistic and architectural developments of these centuries.

The 17th – 19th Centuries [GN_HON 2113H]

Offered every other fall semester, the third course of the Series treats the cultural developments in the West from the Baroque Period through the European Enlightenment and Romanticism. The reading list includes works by Cervantes, Descartes, Milton, Voltaire, Hume, Kant, William Blake, Jane Austen, and Dickinson. Students will also study Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music, as well as the visual arts of the period, including the influential work of Hogarth.

The Modern Era [GN_HON 2114H]

Offered every other spring semester, the final course of the Humanities Series deals with intellectual and cultural developments from the mid-nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries. The reading list includes works by Marx, Nietzsche, Dostoevsky, Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Toni Morrison. In addition, students analyze film and visual art ranging from Impressionism to Expressionism to Post-Modernism. Special lectures are presented on twentieth-century music, including fine arts music, blues, and jazz.

Humanities Series in Action

“A Case Study of University Honors Students in Humanities Through a Disciplinary Literacy Lens”

Jonathan Cisco, former Instructor in the Honors College and currently the Assistant Director of the Campus Writing Program, recently had his article, “A Case Study of University Honors Students in Humanities Through a Disciplinary Literacy Lens”  published in the Literacy Research and Instruction. Based on his time teaching in the Humanities Series, this article explores how students of varying disciplines learned and engaged the diverse array of texts and knowledge sets embedded, by design, within the series.

Link to the article:

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