Great Books III: Foundational Texts of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance
Supervising teacher Sue Ellen Turscak will be working closely with the instructor for this class.
In this rigorous Socratic tutorial, students read many of the foundational texts of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance. Students explore the medieval epic and the beginnings or literary culture in Europe: the age of chivalry, feudal society, British history and legend, and the Scholastic writers. Assignments focus on the ideas that moved those ages: the tensions between faith and reason, morality and "courtly love," the culture of earthly glory and heroism and a growing introspection and reflection on the nature of the soul.
Each week, students produce thoughtful, text-based responses to topical and reflective questions, as well as 300-word Summae--short essays that expand upon ideas raised in class discussions. Students write several longer essays in analytical, expository, and creative/analytical formats. The instructor provides feedback on both content and composition, nurturing the development of students' written expression and writing proficiency.
This class meets once a week. Classes are two hours in length. Students should expect approximately 6 hours of homework (reading, study questions, and composition) per week. Because of this rigorous amount of work, the course may be counted for up to two high school credits, depending on your state's requirements.
High school students may also take this course for dual enrollment credit through the University of St. Katherine. Upon completion, the University will issue the student a transcript with 3 college credits per semester. USK credits are transferable to other colleges and universities.
Great Books III is a course in Literature, History, and Composition.
Literature and History:
Major themes in the course come from the works themselves including the values they endorse and the metaphors for understanding life they offer.
Texts include the following in their entirety:
2) The Song of Roland
3) The History of the Kings of Britain (Geoffrey of Monmouth)
4) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
5) Le Morte d’Arthur (Malory)
6) The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer)
7) Amleth and Shakespeare's Hamlet
8) Scholastics and mystics: Anselm, Bernard de Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine,
Hildegard of Bingen
9) The Prince (Machiavelli)
10) Henry V (Shakespeare)
11) The medieval morality play, Everyman
12) The Divine Comedy: Inferno (Dante)
13) Doctor Faustus (Marlowe)
This course continues to refine students’ writing skills through the study of classical rhetoric. Students will be able to identify and analyze the structure of spoken and written communication, applying the techniques to their own writing about the literature and history of the Medieval and early Renaissance periods. Students read and discuss primary sources from the Great Books III Literature and History texts and compose weekly summae – written responses of approximately 300 words in response to ideas presented in the texts. Other writing assignments include classical rhetorical exercises, literary analysis, writing about history, persuasive writing, and occasional creative responses to texts. The writing process is emphasized — from outline to draft to revision. Students receive extensive feedback from the instructor at each stage of this process with multiple opportunities to revise and re-submit their work. Students learn to use MLA format for in-text citations and bibliographic references for each essay and summa.
The CLRC Great Books program focuses on literary and historical primary sources from the ancient world through the Renaissance and the early modern world. The literature is read for its own merit and studied within the historical and cultural time period in which it was written.
In Year 1, as we read the Iliad and Odyssey, the backdrop of Homer’s great epic is an assumed faith in the Olympian pantheon. Students are not required to express belief in Zeus, Hera, Apollo and the other Olympian gods. The class will not seek to criticize or disprove the religious underpinning of the text. However, students must understand that this is the religious assumption on which the epic is based. Similarly, Year 2 focuses on the Foundational Texts of Ancient Rome. In the first semester students study the preChristian authors Vergil, Caesar, Livy, Sallust, Tacitus and Plutarch. The second semester moves on to the period of history which is dominated by the rise of the Christian Church. Students read Eusebius, Augustine, Athanasius and other early Christian writers. These texts and this period of history are essential to an understanding of the texts studied in Great Books 3 – the period of the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance – which is dominated by the conflict of Faith and Reason. As with the religion of Ancient Greece and Rome, students are not required to subscribe to belief in particular Christian doctrines, but they should understand that foundational texts of the Christian faith will be read in the second half of Year 2.
Students from all faiths and creeds are encouraged to read, understand, and write about the texts through the lens of their own beliefs, in an environment of open, caring, and conscientiously moderated discussion. Students who have questions or doubts reading ancient Greek and Roman texts, or texts of the early Christian church, may wish to contact the instructor for more information or choose a CLRC Literature and Composition class instead.
What students have to say about the importance of reading, discussing, and wrestling deeply with the Great Books:
For the complete text of this student's essay, CLICK HERE.
Students in this course are REQUIRED to use the SPECIFIC EDITIONS of the texts listed below.
In a course based on detailed discussion of classic works, it is imperative that students use editions with the same pagination, section divisions, and line numbering. These particular editions also contain helpful maps, summaries, etc. which are extremely valuable for students.
Amazon links for textbooks and materials are provided for the convenience of our parents and students.
The CLRC is an Amazon Associate.
Song of Roland
The History of the Kings of Britain
Inferno (The Divine Comedy)
Sir Gawain & The Green Knight
Le Morte D'Arthur
In addition, the following readings will be provided by the instructor as links or PDFs:
1) The Lay of the Host of Igor (Slavic epic) (PDF provided by instructor)
2) Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (Prologue and several selected tales; linked by instructor)
3) Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love (excerpts; linked by instructor)
4) Amleth (linked by instructor)
5) Scholastics and mystics: Anselm, Bernard de Clairvaux, Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Hildegard of Bingen (provided by instructor – links and PDFs)
6) The medieval morality play, Everyman (provided by instructor)