CCS Courses

EDU511: History of Classical and Christian Education

Instructor: Christopher Schlect

Today’s classical and Christian education movement is a grassroots phenomenon that was born out of the late twentieth century culture wars. That era witnessed a generation of ardent Christians who mobilized around family values and a strident critique of mainstream American culture. This mobilization took varying forms: some sought to reform American culture through political and legal channels, and others set about the task of building countercultural institutions. In education, the former impulse introduced new battles over curriculum, vouchers, and charter schools, and the latter led to a dramatic rise in homeschooling and Christian school startups. New Saint Andrews College is one important example! Wanting to avoid problems we saw in mainstream education, Christian parents and educators searched the past for inspiration and models. Our search gained some traction when we read and circulated Dorothy Sayers’ 1947 address, “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Sayers directed our attention to the medieval trivium. As helpful as Sayers’ insights are, too few Classical, Christian educators have followed her lead and looked into the bygone eras of education whose recovery Sayers advocated. What do we mean by classical? What is an art? What is a liberal art? Which of the arts are the liberal ones? What are the humanities, what is their relationship to the liberal arts? This course provides historical traction for addressing such questions.

The course traces the rise and development of education in the liberal arts and humanities—from the classical origins of the liberal arts in the ancient world, continuing through its Christianization in early medieval monasteries, to its reworking in the cathedral schools of the later middle ages, and extending into the early modern era with the rise of the humanities. We will bring these writings into conversation with contemporary interpretations of “classical, Christian education” in order to see the ways in which today’s movement adopts, adjusts, and departs from historical precedents. By doing so, the course also aims to foster a robust and fruitful conversation among educators who lived over 1500 years apart from one another.

Course Objectives:

  1. Students will read and interrogate key writings from the western tradition of education, writings that span from antiquity up into the early modern era. Specifically, a. Students will compare these historic works to one another; b. For each work, students will identify the authors’ context, concerns, and contributions; and, c. They will offer their own assessment of each authors’ achievements.

  2. Students will read key writings from the contemporary movement in classical and Christian education. a. Students will compare these contemporary works to one another; b. They will compare these works to historical writings from the western tradition of education; and, c. They will offer their own assessment of each authors’ achievements.

  3. Students will develop informed answers to the following questions: a. How do ancient, medieval and early modern writers characterize grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric (i.e., the arts of the trivium)? Do they represent them as curricular in nature? Pedagogical? Both? What is the scope or domain of each art? Are they sequenced? b. According to the various writers we read, which arts are the liberal arts? How do they fit within the broader project of preparing a person for life? How do they relate to one another? c. What were the humanities? According to promoters of the humanities, how do the humanities relate to the liberal arts? d. How do contemporary presentations of classical education compare with one another? How do they differ? Identify areas of variety and commonality among contemporary writings in classical and Christian education. e. How do various writers on education—those from the past and from today’s CCE movement—treat older fields of study? –fields such as law, architecture and medicine? Where do such fields figure into their curriculum? What about newer fields such as biology, chemistry, psychology, and others? f. In what respects have prominent writers in today’s CCE movement adopted the principles and practices of the past? –which principles and practices, and from when in the past? In what respects do these contemporary writers appropriate and adjust the ways of the past? In what ways do they depart from the past?

  4. Students will consider how educations delivered in the medieval and early modern eras might inform the education we deliver in our own classrooms today;

  5. Students will assert their own viewpoints through prepared presentations and a historiographical essay.

PHIL544: Roman Law and Economics

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh

The influence of the ancient Romans on the political, legal, and social thought of the west, as in so many other areas of learning and culture, would be difficult to overestimate. From their division of political offices, to their views on such topics as the family, civic virtue, just war, and property, the Romans have left an indelible mark on the political and social institutions of Europe, the United States, and many other parts of the world today.

This course undertakes a close study of Roman views on law and economics. In addition to the issues mentioned above, the course will address private law, civil law, contract law, the law of nations, citizenship, and civil religion. It will also consider some of the key economic views and practices of the Romans, including government spending, taxation, money inflation, price-fixing, public works and entertainment, and welfare, and the impact these had on Roman political and cultural life. Some of the primary texts that will receive special attention include Cicero’s Obligations, Republic, and Laws, and the Institutes of Gaius and the Digest of Justinian. One of the central themes throughout the course will be the dynamic between public obligations and security on the one hand and individual liberty and rights on the other. Students will also have the opportunity to develop and practice their skills in graduate research through regular investigations into and reports on relevant secondary literature. The aim in this study will be not only to understand the Romans, but in understanding them, to better understand ourselves and our own world.

THE556: Augustine’s City of God

Instructor: Timothy Harmon

This course introduces students to a defining work by one of Western civilization’s brightest lights. Occasioned by the sack of Rome, and accusations that Christianity had contributed to the Empire’s decline, Augustine of Hippo labored some fourteen years to pen a defense of the faith. Undertaken through a searching treatment of human history, conceived as a dramatic struggle between two cities, the resulting City of God is sweeping in its range, touching on topics such as the relation between church and state, the existence of evil, the suffering of the righteous, free will, and divine providence. Exerting considerable influence on medieval thought, its consequence remains undiminished today both for its value in deciphering the past and its timeless vision of Christian citizenship in the society of God.

While virtually everyone in the world of classical education lauds the formidable status of City of God among those texts most instrumental in shaping Western culture, it is too often referenced without actually having been read. And yet, this great book deserves to be experienced on its own terms, rather than simply cited as a historical footnote. This course provides a valuable opportunity to do just that.

Students in this course will complete a close reading of the City of God in an unabridged English translation, aided by key secondary sources addressing the author’s life, his historical situation, and the structure of and rhetorical techniques employed in this specific work. Course discussions will focus on this text’s interpretation within and impact upon the Western tradition, as well as the major theological themes highlighted in this work, aiming to understand those themes within Augustine’s own context as well as their application for today.

HIS581: Thucydides and International Relations

Instructor: Christopher Schlect

“I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment,” wrote Thucydides, “but as a possession for all time” (I.22.4). Judging by the number of political theorists and statesmen who credit his influence, Thucydides achieved his purpose. His record of the Peloponnesian War, the great conflict of his own day, was as much a brilliant piece of analysis as it was a narrative of the war. In it Thucydides lays out particular events as instances of the fundamental character of international relations. He considers the causes of war; the impact of suffering upon the human condition; and the inherent tensions between expediency, necessity, and morality as they are tested by the unremitting pressures of conflict.

Students in this course will read Thucydides’ work while measuring the author against the standard to which he held himself: by whether his ideas bear out in other conflicts across the span of human history. Accordingly, in this course they will consider ancient and modern wars, and the strategic landscape of today’s international affairs, all through a Thucydidean lens.

Students in this course will read and discuss Thucydides’ history of the Peloponnesian War (in English translation). Alongside Thucydides they will read authors who engage Thucydides’ perspective in their treatments of history, policy, statecraft, and justice.

Course Questions

Students in this course will…

  1. Read Thucydides’ work in its entirety, with attention to its purpose and context, and form their own assessment of the author’s achievement. More specifically, students will…

    a. summarize the history of Athens in its “golden age” in the fifth-century b.c.–including the advent of democracy; Greek military resistance to Persia; the flowering of commerce, intellectual life, and the arts; the rise of the Athenian empire; and the politics of the pentakontaetia;

    b. identify and describe the principal actors in the Peloponnesian War, and narrate the war’s major campaigns and developments; and

    c. discern Thucydides’ theories regarding political power, civic loyalty, international order, morality in war;

  2. Read and assess writings by authors who represent events, both past and current, from a Thucydidean perspective;
  3. Compare Thucydides’ political realism to the Christian tradition of just war theory;
  4. Position Thucydides within the context of the western intellectual tradition, giving particular attention to his contribution to early modern and modern political theory;
  5. Apply Thucydides’ insights to contemporary situations in international relations;
  6. Formulate and express their own views on these topics, both verbally and in writing. More specifically, students will…

    a. actively contribute to all class discussions online, expressing their own ideas while grounding them in the course readings;

    b. compose a thoughtful, well-argued paper at the end of the term.

Participants in the summer residency will complete the objectives above, and in addition, they will…

  1. Verbalize their ideas about the text through active participation in seminar discussion;
  2. Prepare and deliver a presentation on the text and/or on contemporary international affairs.

HUM521: Texts in Context: Jerusalem: History, Religion and Politics

Instructor: Tim Edwards

Students will participate fully in a thirty-day tour of Israel. This course may be taken in conjunction with The People of God in the Land of the Bible and Texts in Context: Independent Research Paper.

The city of Jerusalem has fascinated the world for over two millennia. It is a center of pilgrimage to more than half the world’s population and has a history that extends back over three millennia to such figures as Melchizedek and Abraham. It is the place God chose to place His name and Jesus himself called it the City of the Great King. Its destruction (both in the sixth century BC and the first century AD) was foretold and yet, now, against all the odds, and after nearly 2000 years, it is the capital of the newly revived modern state of Israel, as well as the boiling point of contention in the modern Middle East conflict. This course will trace this history through lectures by local experts, visiting archaeological sites, walking Jerusalem’s ancient streets and discussing the ancient texts, buildings, people, history and politics in the very places these events happened and are happening.

Beyond attendance and participation on the tour, students will prepare an edited, written account of the history of Jerusalem provided by the 2-week intensive in Jerusalem, and a 2500-word research paper written on one aspect of our studies on Jerusalem.

HUM522: The People of God in the Land of the Bible

Instructor: Tim Edwards

Students will participate fully in a thirty-day tour of Israel. This course is only open to students who are also enrolled in Texts in Context: Jerusalem: History, Religion and Politics. This course may also be taken in conjunction with Texts in Context: Independent Research Paper.

This course will connect the text of scripture with Biblical history, archaeology and geography, as well as contemporary culture and literature from the Ancient Near East and Second Temple Judaism. As we study the history of Jerusalem and travel throughout the land of the Bible (from Dan to Beersheba) we will root the Christian faith in the works of God in a particular place and particular history, and among a particular people. Along the way we will engage with the challenging and stimulating questions such an approach raises about how we read the biblical text and how the people and history of Israel has been represented and (on occasions) “demonized” within the Christian tradition.

Beyond attendance and participation on the tour, students will complete a detailed academic journal of the whole tour. This will include the student’s notes from the tour integrated with the assigned readings—readings associated with the tour as a whole as well as specific readings associated with each day.

HUM523: Texts in Context: Independent Research Paper

Instructor: Tim Edwards

Students will participate fully in a thirty-day tour of Israel. This course is only open to students who are also enrolled in Texts in Context: Jerusalem: History, Religion and Politics. This course may also be taken in conjunction with The People of God in the Land of the Bible.

This independent research project will allow the students to take one aspect of the study tour and bring it to life with a detailed and in-depth research project. Students will draw upon their first-hand experience in the land of Israel as they interact with and draw upon the scholarly literature surrounding the topic of their choice. The paper should be between 4,500-5,000 words.

LAT501: Latin Pedagogy

Instructor: Tim Griffith

The Language Pedagogy course is both an introduction to the basics of the Latin language as well as to the principles and problems of language pedagogy that are valuable to anyone involved in education, whether administrator, teacher or parent. At the end of this course, students will be able to read adapted passages from a Latin translation of the Bible and have a foundation sufficient for further Latin study. In pedagogy, the students will through readings, discussion, and class exercises be prepared to better their classrooms, schools, and homeschools. Unlike in “intensive” language courses, we will cover a fairly small amount of material (only about half of Latin grammar) very thoroughly. Before the week-long residency (July 18 – 22) students use NSA Latin I, an online Latin textbook, to learn the basics of Latin. During this time, the class will meet via Adobe Connect once per week for an hour to discuss the week’s material. During the residency, students do short readings on the topic of language pedagogy, discuss problems in pedagogy, and do some classroom exercises designed to teach Latin. After the residency, students will continue their study of Latin with NSA Latin II and compose a short paper on Latin pedagogy.

LAT502: Active Latin Pedagogy II

Instructor: Tim Griffith

This course is a continuation of Active Latin Pedagogy I. Students will learn the remainder of basic Latin grammar and will engage more advanced problems of language pedagogy–problems that will likely confront anyone involved in education, whether they are an administrator, teacher, or parent. At the end of this course students will be able to read original Latin passages with lexical helps, and they will have a solid foundation for further Latin study. The readings, discussions, and exercises will also prepare them to better their classrooms, schools, and homeschools.

This course, unlike some “intensive” language courses, will cover a relatively modest amount of material (the second half of basic Latin grammar). The distance elements of the course include an introduction to grammar and vocabulary, together with exercises. Students will practice vocabulary using Picta Dicta: Vocabulary Builder and complete readings in Lingua Latina Pars I: Familia Romana. The class will also meet regularly in real-time sessions to review exercises and readings, and to discuss pedagogical techniques.

LIT526: Greek Tragedy and Shakespeare

Instructor: Jayson Grieser

Of all the tragedies written in ancient Athens, thirty-three full plays have survived. These plays, performed some twenty-five hundred years ago, come from the pens of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, whose plays continue to serve as the foundation of the western notion of tragedy. How might grasping the technical aspects of ancient “Attic” tragedy help us understand Shakespeare’s tragedies and subsequent tragic stories and plays and art? This question gets at the core of this course: to understand and experience plays like Oedipus the King, Antigone, and The Bacchae in their ancient contexts—with the guidance of the first literary criticism of the genre in Aristotle’s Poetics.

In the second part of the course we will trace these ancient notions into the Renaissance in the four great tragedies of William Shakespeare—Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear. Included in this second half will be the study of scholarly treatment of tragedy, beyond Aristotle in Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, in selections from Northrup Frye’s The Anatomy of Criticism and others. We will conclude with discussion on the development of tragedy and its place in contemporary discourse and with a reading of the American classic The Great Gatsby.


Throughout this course, students will be required to form their own judgments about the meaning of tragedy. Students will interact with the readings in weekly posts and discussion forums. Online debate about the perennial questions and insights of tragedy will spill over into a final paper in which students bring together themes, scholarly insight, and their own discoveries.

Course Questions

  1. What are the main theories of the origins of ancient tragedy?
  2. The Oresteia: discuss violence, revenge, and reconciliation.
  3. How is Sophocles a reformer of tragedy?
  4. What does Euripides’ The Bacchae bring to tragedy?
  5. What is the role of the divine in ancient tragedy?
  6. What are the main elements of an ancient tragedy according to Aristotle?
  7. In what important ways does Shakespeare depart from Aristotle? But also, what Aristotelian devices does he retain?
  8. What elements in Shakespeare’s tragedies can be traced to the ancient Greek plays we have read? What does Shakespeare retain that is “ancient”; what does he transform to fit his own time?
  9. What according critics are the great insights of tragedy: what does it teach us about the human condition?
  10. What have you learned about tragedy from critics after Aristotle?
  11. What is the role of the tragic hero? What is tragic recognition?
  12. What do we mean today in popular culture by “tragic.” How can this study help us deepen our experience of suffering and guilt? As Christians, what unique perspectives do we have on tragedy and the tragic?

LIT 520: The Epics of Homer

Instructor: Jayson Grieser

The aim of this course is to immerse the student into the world of Homer’s epics, the Iliad and Odyssey. Through close readings of the primary texts in translation, students will sit at the feet of the “father of Western literature.” They will also be encouraged to form their own judgments about the meaning of the epics, what the scholars say, and the value of Homer today. In a seminar format, either in the classroom or in an on-line forum, students will debate the perennial questions and insights of these beloved and formative poems.

Why read Homer today? That’s the big question. His epics are influential to be sure, but also demanding. Reading Homer and teaching Homer are large undertakings. Is Homer still worth the effort and research? In an age of social media, can we disengage ourselves to engage with this ancient bard in such a way that his Achilles and Odysseus will have something to say to us in the modern world? Can we as non-Greek speakers even come to terms with this imposing giant of literature? By the end of the course, students should be able to answer these questions for themselves and in the affirmative.

Course Objectives:

The student should be able to discuss, answer, or comment on the following, demonstrating his own mastery of the primary narratives and independent thought about the scholarship.

  1. The Iliad and Odyssey as comparative and complementary works. (A) One gives us the first tragedy, the other, the first comedy. One is centered round a hero in war the other, a hero at a time of relative peace. How do the two epics overlap in theme and narrative and when do they diverge? (B) What evidence is there that these epics were written by the same author?
  2. The Homeric epics as history and poetry. (A) Did these events really happen? What can be proved by historical evidence? (B) Situate Homer’s epics in relation to the Greek Dark Age and the philosophical revolution of Socrates. (C) Where did the action take place? Know the geography of the two epics. (D) Who originally sang them and how? Where did the episodes come from? How were they transmitted? Who wrote them down?
  3. Narrative structure. (A) What is the structure of each epic? What books might be blocked together? (B) What are the key moments on which the plots turn? (C) Summarize the story of each, including the main events and themes. (D) How does the narrative of each epic unfold? How are the narrative styles similar? How different?
  4. The Hero. (A) What makes Achilles a hero? (You might include Achilles as leader, warrior, friend, lover, son of Thetis, man of rage, man of human sympathy, subject of Zeus.) (B) What is the character of Odysseus? How is his heroism similar to Achilles’? How different? (C) What must he accomplish to fulfill his heroic mission? Compare and contrast it to Achilles’ life and purpose.
  5. Women in Homer. (A) What is the place of women in the Iliad? The whole war is for Helen, or is it? Important women in the Iliad: Hector’s wife, Priam’s wife, and the goddesses Thetis and Hera. (B) In the Odyssey, Athena and Penelope. How do they relate to their husbands? To men in general? (C) Could they too be described as heroic?
  6. The gods in Homer. (A) What are we to make of Homer’s gods? How does Homer characterize the gods? How are they different from men? (B) Are these the gods that the Greeks on the street actually believed in? The philosophers? (C) What do the gods require from men? What do the gods live for? Are they just? (D) Compare and contrast the gods of the epics.
  7. War and death in Homer. (A)What is Homer’s view of warfare? What is aresteia? (B) What do the epic similes reveal about war in the Iliad? (C) What is the afterlife in each epic? (D) What is Homer’s own view of war?
  8. Homer’s political significance. (A) What is the polis? (B) What is a king or leader? (C) What hierarchy exists among the men? What codes of honor exists between the men?
  9. Homer in context. (A) Contrast medieval, Renaissance and contemporary approaches to understanding Homer’s epics. (B) Historically how were these epics taught? When did they begin to fall out of favor and why? (C) What’s the state of Homer and secondary education today? (D) Is it helpful to characterize Homer as a historians or rhetorician or as the “father of Western literature.”
  10. Teaching Homer. (A) Should we teach both epics comparatively? What sorts of assignments would make the teaching of the epic successful? What would you avoid? What would you want students to take away from these epics? (B) How might these texts teach the contemporary student about the following: politics, gender politics, narrative, poetic device, leadership, cultural transmission, the Greek polis, the Greek attitude toward war and peace, men and woman, courage, friendship, personal worth, human value, sex, marriage, religion? Which of these topics would you bring into your lesson plan and why?

LIT 529: The American Odyssey

Instructor: Abigail Smith

In her introduction to The Epic Cosmos, Louise Cowan proposes that the grandeur of the epic genre “stems less from a glamorizing of events than from an envisioning of the human lot itself as full of splendid purpose.” She goes on to suggest that this purpose is found only in the “linking of human action to a divine destiny.” This course will consider the genre in this way, recognizing that while the epic impulse drives one Greek hero’s journey across the Aegean Sea, it just as surely compels an American boy’s journey down the Mississippi River.

After an initial exploration of Homer’s Odyssey, we will turn to American manifestations of the epic journey, looking at works such as Solomon Northrup’s Twelve Years a Slave, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Wm. Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Eudora Welty’s The Optimist’s Daughter and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, among others.

In this graduate-level course, students are expected to engage in meaningful dialogue with and about these texts, not only with each other, but with the critical conversation of literary scholarship. To that end, we will read at least one scholarly article per text. The culmination of the course will be a paper in which students will place three primary texts in conversation with one another while tracing out a single theme, trope, or image. And, in order to speak to the conversations already happening regarding these texts, inclusion of literary criticism will be a central part of the assignment.

PHIL542: Resistance Theory in the Early Modern Period

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh

From the New Testament time onwards, Christian political thought, taken as a whole, has tended to emphasize one particular political duty above the rest: the Christian’s duty to submit. Yet in the early modern period following the Protestant Reformation, a distinctly new theme came to the forefront of Christian political reflection, namely the responsibility Christians also have, under special circumstances, to resist and possibly even overthrow their government.

This course surveys some of the major texts of the most important writers in favor of, but also in some cases opposed to, the tradition of “resistance theory” in early modern political thought. The course begins with the political thought of the two most famous Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, before turning to see how their political thought was reinterpreted and applied by those who came after them in ways and in contexts different from their own.

More than merely an abstract study in the history of political thought, however, this course will also seek to challenge students to think and discuss whether and how early modern theories of resistance and civil disobedience might be applied by Christians today, especially in regard to such topics as legalized abortion, as well as the relevance of such issues for both classical Christian educators and their students.

In addition to the assigned reading, students will be required to research one secondary source pertinent to the week’s reading and post an annotated bibliography to the discussion page. Annotations should briefly state the thesis of the work and comment on its application to the course readings and discussion.

Primary texts may include:

Martin Luther, “On Secular Authority”
John Calvin, “On Civil Government”
George Buchanan, Law of Kingship
_John Knox, _On Rebellion
_Theodore Beza, _Concerning the Rights of Rulers over Their Subjects
_François Hotman, _Francogallia
_Etienne de la Boétie, _Discourse on Voluntary Servitude
_Juan de Mariana, _On the King
_Junius Brutus, _Vindicae contra Tyrannos
_Richard Hooker, _Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity
_Thomas Hobbes, _Leviathan
_John Locke, _Second Treatise on Government

Secondary sources:

Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Vol. 2: The Age of Reformation (Cambridge University Press)

THE525: Franciscus Junius’ De Vera Theologia in Context

Instructor: Peter Escalante

Franciscus Junius is not widely known in the Reformed world today, but in his time he was highly regarded and very well connected. His De Vera Theologia influenced later theologians up to the end of the 19th century, and has been recently translated into English. In this course, we will engage in a close reading of this theological master text, while also considering the political and ecclesiastical background of Junius and his work, looking at the politics of Reformation-era Europe, Reformed and Roman Catholic controversies, the question of theological method, and the interaction between theology and philosophy in early modernity.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will engage in close reading of Junius’ De Vera Theologia, paying close attention to both its conceptual content and to its rhetoric, considering the latter in light of Junius’ times and situation as seen in ancillary assigned readings for their course. a. Students will read the whole of the De Vera Theologia. b. Students will survey and summarize the political, ecclesiastical, philosophical, and literary circumstances of the Reformation, including the medieval background. c. Students will summarize the main differences between Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Reformed at the time of Junius’ writing. d. Students will situate Junius within the Reformed tradition by comparing him with other leading Reformed theologians regarding key loci of his theology.

  2. Students will not only read early modern sources, but will draw extensively from modern academic research in order to better understand the sources and their contexts.

  3. Students will position these primary texts within the European intellectual tradition, compare them to other literatures such as the juridical, historical, philosophic genres, and relate them to our contemporary ecclesial circumstances. a. Students will ask and attempt to answer the question of whether “theology” plays the same role or even has largely the same meaning now as it did for Junius, paying special attention to the 19th century subjectivizing turn. But further, they will ask an attempt to answer the question of whether Junius’ mode of theology is the same, similar, and/or different from prevalent earlier models of the Middle Ages. b. Students will rethink the traditional periodization of “late medieval” and “early modern,” “Renaissance” and “Reformation.” c. Students will ask and attempt to answer the question of how Junius’ texts, and others like it, can be received by ecclesial readers today.

  4. Students will communicate their engagement with these primary texts in writing and in seminar conversation. a. Students will actively contribute to all class discussions online, expressing their own ideas while grounding them in the course readings. b. Students will compose an insightful, topically focused, well-argued, and thoroughly researched paper at the end of the term.

LIT559: Renaissance & Reformation Europe

Instructor: Joseph Tipton

The intellectual and artistic orientation that emerged during the Italian Renaissance still informs the way we think and create today. The Renaissance and the Reformation have bequeathed to the modern and postmodern world a legacy which, for its sheer extent and influence, would be difficult to estimate adequately. Similarly, the doctrine and practices formulated during the Reformation have exerted a formative influence in important theological, political, social and literary developments.

Scholarly work on the Renaissance as a distinct historical period began with Jacob Burckhardt and the publication of his seminal work, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. Since Burckhardt’s day scholars have offered a host of interpretations of the Renaissance and Reformation, many of which are incompatible with one another. These differing interpretations shape how we assess all the “isms” we inherit from the period: classicism, humanism, rationalism, empiricism, absolutism, Protestantism (just to name a few!). Given that so much is at stake, how do we navigate the currents and cross-currents of these multifarious interpretations? Certainly the fairest way to do so is to extend to those who lived during this period the same courtesy they extended to their classical forebears, to go ad fontes, and examine what they actually thought, said and wrote.

Accordingly, in this course we will explore the three-hundred year period that extends from 1300 to 1600 through a reading of crucial texts that provide precious insights into often neglected features and relationships of the period. The course will follow a historical narrative provided by a standard textbook on the period, while the reading of key texts will punctuate this narrative. We will pay particular attention to humanist literature and the ways humanist thought and writing anticipate the Reformation. The main texts we will be reading are Petrarch’s On his own ignorance, Valla’s On Free Will and Erasmus’ Colloquies. This course informs how we understand not just the Renaissance and Reformation, but more importantly, the relationship of the two with one other and with ourselves.

SCI556, SCI556R: The Creation-Evolution Controversy

Instructor: Gordon Wilson

This course will engage with arguably the most important watershed issue facing us today. Its importance stems from the fact that where one settles on this controversy determines one’s worldview, which of course affects everything. We will read Darwin’s Origin of Species and discuss how its timing, content, and rhetorical style caused a major paradigm shift away from theistic views that were widely accepted during and at the end of the early modern period. These views had been articulated well by scholars like William Paley (Natural Theology) and Carolus Linnaeus (Systema Naturae, etc.). What is Darwinism and its modern makeovers? What is its appeal? What are the cultural repercussions? What are the compromises between Christianity and Darwinism and their inherent dangers? What are biblical and scientific reasons to reject naturalistic evolution and its Christian admixtures? Are we at the cusp of a paradigm shift?

Our other readings will cover the waterfront of topics as we interact with some of the best minds and arguments on various sides of this complex and nuanced controversy. In so doing we will strive to avoid misunderstandings and ill-informed straw-man arguments. The course will lay a biblical and scientific foundation, and then examine the broad spectrum of views on origins so we may more clearly assess them.

We will interact with the evidences and various interpretations and arguments regarding key topics in this debate, including the origin of life, irreducible complexity, created kinds and the natural limits to biological change, biological natural evil, the fossil record, and the age of the earth. We will also see how differing starting assumptions yields different conclusions even while looking at the same body of facts. Prompted by our class readings and discussions, students will write a paper on one facet of the creation-evolution controversy after researching more deeply both sides of the issue.

LIT558: Arthurian Literature

Instructor: Peter Escalante

The jewel in the crown of the Matter of Britain is the collection of Arthurian legends. Merlin, the Sword in the Stone, and the Round Table are all still very much a part of the Western imaginarium, outliving their medieval origins and exceeding their original British range. In this course, we will study the Arthurian corpus through primary sources and scholarly commentary, beginning by visiting the late antique and early medieval crucible of peoples and legends in the West, proceeding on through the medieval culmination of the legend cycle, and then extending our considerations all the way into the present, looking at the modern reception of the Arthurian mythos and its abiding interest. In the West, the rex quondam rexque futurus is always returning in the present between the mythic past and the hoped for future, and in this course, we will see why.

Course Objectives and Themes:

  • Acquire a close familiarity with the history, themes, and literary structures of Arthurian legend and with current scholarly approaches to the corpus
  • Practice careful reading techniques, particularly observant of the distinction between historical narrative and heroic, legendary narrative
  • Engage thoughtfully with the political and ethical functions of myth

LIT556: Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Instructor: Jayson Grieser

In this course, we will go on pilgrimage to Canterbury with the twenty-nine pilgrims of Geoffrey Chaucer’s greatest poetic work, The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer’s twenty-four tales famously capture the ethos of the high Middle Ages through a jumble of characters including a knight, a miller, a cook, a lawyer, a friar, a clerk, a squire, a pardoner and so on. Chaucer’s tales vividly capture human personality in all its variety and propensities toward virtue and vice. In this course we will enjoy the irony and satire of Chaucer, but we’ll especially focus on his language. Our goal will be to read the stories in their original Middle English: this will take some work, so we’ll start out slowly, working on pronunciation and vocabulary. Toward the middle of the course, once everyone is comfortable reading Middle English, we’ll begin reading tales more quickly.

Students will deepen their understanding of these tales by reading the primary texts and by engaging in conversation with leading scholars and schools of thought and their interpretive approaches. Students will express their own opinions in weekly online posts, in short papers, and in a final term paper and oral exam, adding their voices to the conversation. Finally, students will consider the importance of these works globally, that is, within the western intellectual and literary tradition and ponder their ongoing value for students of the liberal arts today.


The goals of this course include the student being able to…

  1. Read Chaucer in the original Middle English
  2. Identify the poetic and literary features of the Tales
  3. Grasp the unifying themes and structures of the Tales
  4. Place the Tales in their medieval context
  5. Summarize the scholarship on various aspects of Tales
  6. Enjoy the comic spirit of the Tales as well as their critique of human sinfulness.

PHIL536: Economic Thought in the Middle Ages

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh

Famously described by Thomas Carlyle as the “dismal science,” economics, properly understood, is anything but. In brief, economics is the science of human action in its use of scarce resources that have alternative applications. So defined, economics should be seen not only as an exciting discipline, but also a critically important one, studying as it does an integral dimension of all purposeful human behavior that no productive and prosperous society—and hence no Christian effort to renew society—can afford to ignore.

For all its importance, however, the idea of economics as a distinct science with its own subject matter and method is in fact a fairly modern development. While the medieval schoolmen, or “scholastics,” had occasion to touch on various economic topics in the course of their theological, anthropological, ethical, and political reflections, their treatment of economic matters was neither systematic nor always, it may be argued, entirely consistent. So why study the economic thought—such as it was—of the Middle Ages? And what, if anything, did the schoolmen have to say of relevance to us in our own, comparatively much more complex economies and economic relations, institutions, and practices today?

This course is an introduction to the discipline of economics, undertaken by way of an examination of the economic thought of the high to late medieval period, and of the “prince of the scholastics” in particular, St. Thomas Aquinas. Although the medieval schoolmen did not recognize economics as a distinct subject of inquiry in its own right, as this course will survey, they nevertheless touched on such universal and foundational economic issues as private property, public goods, the division of labor, the theory of value, exchange, money, prices, banking and interest, inflation, profit, price gouging, scarcity, monopoly, economic need, and more. Of equal if not greater importance, as this course will consider, is the unique way in which they approached matters of human economic action within a comprehensive and systematic framework for understanding and integrating, first, God’s own creative and providential action and, second, man’s own nature as an embodied, rational, and moral being who must use the resources of material creation in order to fulfill his divinely appointed task of responsible dominion and stewardship.


  • Provide an introduction to and overview of the science of economics.
  • Survey of the main topics in medieval economic thought.
  • Consider current scholarly debate(s) over the legacy of medieval economics (e.g., is it free-market tending or not?).
  • Introduce students to the economic thought of St. Thomas Aquinas.
  • Discuss and debate the merits and place of economics within a classical, liberal arts education and the relation of this science to other such disciplines as theology, ethics, and politics.

PHIL510: Byzantine Theology and Philosophy

Instructor: Peter Escalante

The Christian Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, is still in many ways unknown to Western Christians. But it was the the heir of the Roman Empire, the matrix of the Creeds, the bulwark of Christian Europe, and sponsored a rich intellectual life. In this course, we will survey the history of the Byzantine Empire from Constantine to the schism with the West in 1054, concentrating especially on its theology and philosophy in relation to several key matters, including Biblical authority as perceived at the time, the practice of monasticism, the legacy of classical antiquity, and the renascent Western Empire. We will look at the history of the Eastern Christian disputes about faith and reason; the long history of the leitmotif of representation in the Eastern Empire, from its roots in the imperial cultus and propaganda to its more well known application in the Eastern doctrine and practice of iconodulia; the profound Byzantine concern with the question of the relation of unity and diversity, a theme which inspired both the Eastern development of the doctrine of God and also the Eastern conception of Empire. We will do this by reading a discussing a range of primary and secondary sources, engaging closely with current academic work in the field of Byzantine studies, but especially through close readings of selections from Maximos the Confessor’s Ambigua, which we will take as an exemplary text of Byzantine thought. Through this course, students will acquire a familiarity with a half of Christendom which, as the title of one of our secondary sources has it, is still in large measure “lost to the West.” But it always has been, and still very much is, a deep root of Eastern Europe and which, through Eastern Orthodoxy, remains an interlocutor of the Western Church.

RHT520: Classical Rhetoric in the Western Tradition

Instructor: Christopher Schlect

“Words, so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” Nathaniel Hawthorne penned this maxim in an 1848 notebook entry, a saying that demonstrates the very thing it says. Because humans combine words by nature, some deny that such combining is an art. This course takes the opposite view; it embraces a long tradition of rhetorical study grounded in the conviction that eloquence follows natural patterns that can be reduced to precepts and taught.

The course surveys this classical tradition of western rhetoric, focusing on Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian and Erasmus as luminaries within it. The survey does more than serve an antiquarian interest; it aims to continue the tradition into the present day. Students will investigate ways to implement classical rhetoric in contemporary settings, and will perform experiments on themselves to build up their own eloquence.


  1. Students will read and interrogate the rhetorical treatises of Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian and Erasmus. They will identify their insights and situate them within their contexts. They will also form their own assessment of the authors’ achievements. Specifically, they will: a. trace the historical development of classical rhetoric through these authors—from its Greek origins (featuring Aristotle), its continuation in the Roman world (exemplified in Cicero and Quintilian), and into the medieval and early modern eras (exemplified by Erasmus);
    b. identify Aristotle’s influences, concerns, and the influence of his work upon later rhetorics; explain his division of rhetoric into types; differentiate his three modes of persuasion; and explain the place of enthymemes in his system;
    c. outline the basic components of the Roman oratorical tradition grounded in Cicero, including the faculties an orator must possess, types of discourse, parts of a discourse, and stasis theory;
    d. summarize and assess Quintilian’s vision for the ideal education, including his discussion of progymnasmata;
    e. describe Erasmus’ vision for copiousness and his exercises for developing it;
    f. engage timeless questions that have occupied theorists of rhetoric since its inception as an art, including the aims of rhetoric, the purview of rhetoric, ethics and rhetoric, and the relationship between rhetoric and other disciplines.

  2. Students will assess the practical value of classical texts in today’s educational setting by implementing their precepts in practical rhetorical exercises. Specifically, they will: a. devise effective strategies for adapting rhetorical exercises to contemporary instruction;
    b. discuss both the possibilities and the limitations of classical rhetoric for contemporary instruction; and
    c. assess the merits of selected contemporary college composition texts, comparing and contrasting them with classical texts.

  3. Students will set out on a course to build up their own rhetorical effectiveness by applying theory to imitation and practice. Specifically, they will: a. practice traditional progymnasmata and declamation exercises;
    b. deploy stasis theory to invent and deliver a persuasive piece; and
    c. complete a paper or develop curricular materials informed by the course material.

THE536: Dead Sea Scrolls, Second Temple Judaism, and Early Christianity

Instructor: Timothy Edwards

“The [Dead Sea] Scrolls have been described as the greatest archaeological discovery of the twentieth century… They shed light on the two main religions of the Western world at a crucial point of transition for the one (Judaism) and the time of origin of the other (Christianity)… This light is of fundamental importance for understanding the nature of Judaism and Christianity and their tumultuous relationship over the centuries.” So wrote John Collins in the preface to his recent publication, Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biography. This course will assess that claim through a close study of the Scrolls (in English translation) alongside contemporary Jewish and Christian writings.

This course will examine how the Scrolls impact our understanding of the historical context of the gospels; the history of the Biblical text; the nature of Judaism at the time of Christ; and the letters and theology of Paul in particular. Students will, through reading these primary texts, find themselves transported back into the world in which Jesus lived.

Course Objectives

  1. Students will read and gain familiarity with the texts known as The Dead Sea Scrolls.
  2. Students will situate the Scrolls within the history of the Second Temple period (6th century BC – 70 AD) as well as understand how the Scrolls changed our understanding of that history.
  3. Students will read contemporary texts from the Second Temple period alongside one another and in light of archeological records of the Qumran site near the Dead Sea.
  4. Students will consider the theories of Jewish sectarianism in light of the Scrolls and locate the provenance of the Scrolls within the different Jewish groups at that time.
  5. Students will examine some of the Biblical texts found among the Scrolls and analyze their significance in tracing the history of the Biblical text and how, if at all, that affects our doctrine of scripture.
  6. Students will compare the Scrolls and early Rabbinic Judaism.
  7. Students will discuss and form views on the importance of the Scrolls in our understanding of the gospels and the life of Christ as well as the Pauline epistles.
  8. Students will practice their skills of reading analysis and interpretation through online writing and recitation assignments.
  9. Students will hone their skills of independent research and writing through an end-of-term graduate paper.

HIS580: Herodotus and Thucydides

Instructor: Christopher Schlect

This course introduces two of antiquity’s most influential teachers of the past, Herodotus and Thucydides. Cicero famously gave Herodotus the title pater historiae (“father of History”), and David Hume remarked, “the first page of Thucydides is, in my opinion, the commencement of real history.” Why did ancient and early modern scholars elevate these two Greeks above all others, and reckon them as the standard-bearers of the historian’s craft? Is it even too limiting to categorize Herodotus and Thucydides as historians?—are they not also philosophers? literary artists? theologians? anthropologists? geographers? strategists?

Students in this course will read and discuss Herodotus and Thucydides in unabridged English translations. They will situate both writers within their ancient contexts, identify the unique ways they imagined the events they narrated, and assess their achievements and limitations. Students will also interact with leading interpretive approaches to these important works in order to better understand and appreciate their significance in the western tradition of historical writing.

This course will be conducted primarily in a seminar format. In online forums, students will interact with one another in focused discussions about our two primary texts. In addition, students will prepare an informed paper that draws Herodotus and Thucydides into conversation in a meaningful way.


  1. Students will read and interrogate the writings of Herodotus and Thucydides; identify their contexts, concerns, and insights; and form their own assessment of the authors’ achievements;

a. Students will outline the main developments in the history of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age through the Macedonian period;
b. Read the works of Herodotus and Thucydides in their entirety;
c. Summarize the main events of the 5th century b.c., especially the Persian Wars, the pentakontaetia, and the Peloponnesian War;
d. Situate Herodotus’ work within the context of the Ionian Enlightenment;
e. Situate Thucydides’ work within the context of Athenian intellectual milieu; and
f. Compare and contrast Herodotus and Thucydides in regard to their notions of historical causation and historical agency, their attitudes toward the epic tradition, their approaches to religion, and also in their narrative styles.

  1. Students will converse meaningfully with leading scholars or schools of thought and with their interpretive approaches to these primary texts, and will express their own voice into this conversation;

a. Students will assess Herodotus and Thucydides as they relate to orality and literacy;
b. Identify and evaluate Thucydides’ contribution to early modern and modern political theory;
c. Contrast modern and contemporary approaches to understanding Herodotus and Thucydides; and
d. Evaluate whether it is helpful to characterize Herodotus and Thucydides as historians.

  1. Students will position these primary texts within the western intellectual tradition, compare them to other literatures, and relate them to our contemporary world

a. Students will bring Herodotus and Thucydides to bear upon contemporary questions about interpretive scale, ethnic and racial identity, and the relationship of political life to culture; and
b. Apply Thucydides’ insights to contemporary situations in international relations.

  1. Students will communicate their engagement with these primary texts in writing.

a. Students will actively contribute to all class discussions online, expressing their own ideas while grounding them in the course readings; and
b. Will compose a thoughtful, well-argued paper at the end of the term.

LIT534: English Reformation Poetry

Instructor: Jayson Grieser

In this course, students will familiarize themselves with some of the foundational poems of English literature and grasp the importance of the Bible, as recovered in the Reformation, as a deep source for English poetry.

The main authors and works central to this course include, Philip Sidney’s Defense of Poetry, selections from Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, selections from John Donne and George Herbert, and Milton’s Paradise Lost. Students will seek to interpret these texts, giving attention to important aspects of poetry and drama: syntax, meter, diction, rhyme, metaphor, theme, character, and the poetic stanza and line.

Students will deepen their understanding of these primary texts by engaging in conversation with leading scholars or schools of thought and their interpretive approaches; students will express their own opinions in papers and weekly online posts, adding their voice to the scholarly conversation. Finally, students will ponder the importance of these works globally, that is, within the western intellectual and literary tradition and their ongoing value for students of the liberal arts today.

Course Objectives

Students should be able to interact with the following questions:

  1. What are the biblical sources behind Spenser’s The Faerie Queene?
  2. Why does Milton think Spenser, as poet, is a better teacher than the great scholastic philosophers like Aquinas? Do you agree?
  3. What is Spenser’s teaching on holiness? What is uniquely Protestant about it?
  4. Why does C.S. Lewis call the best poetry of the English Renaissance and Reformation period “golden”?
  5. What does Philip Sidney mean when he says only the poet creates a perfected, a “golden” nature, while Nature herself offers only a “brazen” world?
  6. What arguments does Sidney make on behalf of poetry and fiction in The Defense of Poesy? Which arguments do you find most convincing?
  7. What are the unique formal features of the Spenser’s romance epic, Shakespeare’s dramatic work, Herbert’s and Donne’s lyric, and Milton’s classical epic?
  8. How would you compare and contrast (a) the poetry of Spenser in Faerie Queene Book 1 and that of Milton in Paradise Lost and (b) the purpose of each poem?
  9. Is the Merchant of Venice a Christian comedy? How is it informed by the New Testament?
  10. Milton’s Paradise Lost fills in the gaps in the biblical story. Is this something you can get behind? Why or why not?
  11. What is poetry for? How might we best communicate its importance in the classroom today?
  12. Recite some favorite lines of English Reformation poetry from the syllabus from memory. Why does this poetry matter to you?

PHIL682: Aristotle’s Politics and the Middle Ages

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh

Aristotle’s Politics is one of—if not the most—influential texts of political philosophy of all time, touching on such topics as the origin and purpose of the political community, slavery, the family, the citizen, class conflict, and the different kinds of government in general and forms of democracy in particular. Yet the actual period in which Aristotle’s Politics exerted its greatest influence was the Middle Ages, when many medieval schoolmen wrote commentaries on the work and incorporated its ideas into their own political treatises. This course thus begins with a careful reading of Aristotle’s Politics, guided by his most famous and insightful commentator, St. Thomas Aquinas. After this, the course turns to consider the role Aristotle’s Politics played in shaping the political thought of the scholastic period, including the evolving debate over the proper relationship between the church and the state and, related to this, such topics as the relation of grace and nature and of faith and reason in man’s social and political life. In addition to learning more about Aristotle’s Politics and its influence on medieval thought, the course will challenge students to develop and sharpen their own political thought and its application to issues of contemporary concern.

Course Objectives

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  1. provide a thorough overview of both Aristotle’s and Aquinas’s (the “Christian Aristotle”) political thought. This will be measured by students’ participation in online and in-residence seminar discussions, reader responses, and an end-of-course final written and oral exam.
  2. list and summarize some of the principal debates in how later Christian intellectuals influenced by Aristotle’s political thought were developing and applying the latter in their own context. This will be measured by students’ participation in online and in-residence seminar discussions, reader responses, and an end-of-course final written and oral exam.
  3. make application of some of the political-philosophical insights from the ancient and medieval world to their own contemporary context. This will be done in seminar discussions and reader responses.
  4. practice their skills of graduate level research, writing, and argumentation. This will be done in the term research paper.

Course Assignments and Expectations

  1. Timely completion of all readings.
  2. Participation in weekly online seminars.
  3. Weekly reader responses (posted online).
  4. Weekly responses to classmates’ online posts.
  5. Research paper.
  6. Final written exam.
  7. Final oral exam.

HEB500X: Hebrew I-II

Instructor: Timothy Edwards

“In proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone–the Old Testament in Hebrew, the New in Greek. Now if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others….” (Martin Luther, “To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools” 1524)

Martin Luther wrote the above in response to the question, “Suppose we do have schools; what is the use of teaching Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and the other liberal arts?” Hebrew, clearly belongs in a Classical Christian Liberal Arts curriculum. This course takes up this challenge and works through the basic grammar and vocabulary of biblical Hebrew through a (graded) reading of the books of Jonah and Ruth.

As soon as students have learned how to read and pronounce Hebrew letters and recognize all the components in a printed Hebrew Bible, they will read and translate the Biblical text and learn the basic grammar of Hebrew as it appears in the verse they are translating. The course is based around the online program, BibleMesh Hebrew First Steps and Level 1 and instills in the students (1) a love for this Biblical language, (2) a repertoire of the most commonly used words in the Old Testament, (3) an ability to recognize the morphology of nouns and adjectives in the Old Testament, as well as the qal strong verb and basic syntax of Biblical Hebrew. (4) An inceptive ability to translate biblical Hebrew.


  • Increase the students’ knowledge of the grammar, vocabulary and syntax of the language through immersive, (graded) reading of Biblical texts in Hebrew on BibleMesh and the linked grammar articles drawn from those texts (weekly BibleMesh quizzes and tests and recitation)
  • Increase the students’ reading ability and comprehension in Hebrew (oral exam and recitations)
  • Student will engage the biblical text independently, according to their level of language learning, by working both from Hebrew to English (translation) and English to Hebrew (composition). (Final exam and recitations)

PHIL520: Philosophy and Theology of St. Anselm of Canterbury

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh

The medieval period, typically reckoned from the middle of the first millennium A.D. to the middle of the second, spanned an enormously long age, making the selection of any one figure as a “representative thinker” of the era an exceedingly difficult if not impossible task. Yet surely one leading candidate for the title is the eleventh-century Benedictine monk and eventual archbishop, St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). Living near the middle of what has been referred to as “the long Middle Ages,” St. Anselm’s life and writings touch on many of the most important theological, philosophical, devotional, ecclesial, and political concerns of the period. From an ambitious, wandering student in search of a teacher in dialectic, to a humble and devoted monk whose published prayers and letters would become famous in their own right; and whether as a theologian defending the rational necessity of the truths of the faith, or as a reluctant archbishop defying kings over the Church’s right to appoint her own bishops—Anselm was in many ways the quintessential medieval man.

This class is an examination of the major theological and philosophical writings of St. Anselm, perhaps the most important Christian thinker in the 800-year span between St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. The course canvases his famous philosophical defenses of the doctrine of God in the Monologion and Proslogion (including his famous, “ontological” argument for God’s existence), and his treatises and dialogues on such topics as truth, free will, the fall of the Devil, the Incarnation and Atonement of Christ, the Virgin Conception and Original Sin, divine foreknowledge, predestination, and more. The central themes of the course are the radically theocentric nature of Anselm’s philosophical thought and his program of “faith seeking understanding.” This course approaches St. Anselm not only as a towering intellectual figure within his own historical context, but as someone whose theological perspective we need to recover in our own.

Course objectives:

  1. Students will gain a thorough familiarity with the philosophical, theological, and devotional writings of St. Anselm through readings, lectures, and discussions of Anselm’s major works.
  2. Students will acquire an appreciation for the significance of Anselm’s mode of thought, both in its own historical context and in its continuing relevance today.
  3. Students will become acquainted with and weigh in on some of the recent scholarship and debates in Anselm studies.
  4. Students will practice their skills of reading analysis and interpretation through online writing and recitation assignments and in-residence seminar discussions.
  5. Students will hone their skills of independent research and writing through an end-of-term graduate paper.

PHIL531: Early Modern Skepticism

Instructor: Mitchell O. Stokes

With the rise in popularity of movies like Inception and The Matrix, it would be easy to dismiss the problems of philosophical skepticism as intellectual parlor games, pseudo-problems used only to tell fantastical stories. But this would be to entirely miss the legitimate concerns that our epistemic limits raise. Not to put too fine a point on it, questions surrounding skepticism are central to the human condition and must eventually be dealt with by every educated adult.

Although there have been very few actual skeptics in the full-blown philosophical sense, skepticism is used as a foil to examine the theoretical limit of human cognitive faculties. But these limits raise serious problems for anyone who is interested in the following kinds of questions: What should I believe? What can we know? What must we believe by way of authority? Do we choose our epistemic authorities and if so, are our choices rational? If they are rational, does this imply that reason is our ultimate epistemic authority?

These are some of the questions that arose during the Reformation—perhaps even goading it on. And at the very least, philosopher Richard Popkin begins his famous history of early modern skepticism with the following claim:

“One of the main avenues through which skeptical views of antiquity entered late Renaissance thought was a central quarrel of the Reformation, the dispute over the proper standard of religious knowledge, or what was called “the rule of faith.”

—The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle

In fact, these skeptical concerns become characteristic of the early modern period and—in combination with the scientific revolution of the 1600s—give rise to and culminate in the extreme skeptical philosophies of David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Indeed, the threat of skepticism during this time results in a new focus on epistemology in Western philosophy, a focus that is with us today.

In this course, we will look at the European renaissance of ancient skepticism, paying close attention to how this rediscovery influenced debates about religious and epistemic authority. But to do this, we will need to do some epistemological spadework. That is, in addition to our historical investigation we will address some technical epistemological topics related to skepticism.

Course Objectives

  1. Through careful and deliberate reading of both primary and secondary texts, students will become familiar with the main thinkers and topics in philosophical skepticism. In addition to the writings of Erasmus, Montaigne, Gassendi, Boyle, Hume, and Kant, students will also study topics like the problem of the criterion, epistemic circularity, and general epistemological concepts like justification, knowledge, truth, inference, and basic beliefs.
  2. In addition to the main conceptual issues related to skepticism, students will gain a crucial understanding of the historical contexts in which these topics were debated, as well as the broader cultural significance of these discussions and debates.
  3. Another goal for students will be to apply their historical and conceptual understanding of skepticism to contemporary theological problems like the (source of) doctrines of Scripture, sola Scriptura, inerrancy, inspiration, and the role of ecclesiastical tradition.
  4. Students will discuss the readings with each other (and the teacher) in an online forum. Each student will also write a substantial paper on a topic approved by the instructor.

Although this is an introduction to early modern skepticism—and to philosophical skepticism in general—it is also a graduate course and so students will be required to read, discuss, and write at an advanced level.

LIT578: Shakespeare & Rome

Instructor: Jayson Grieser

At the core of Shakespeare’s depiction of Rome is a trilogy of plays based on Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans. Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra dramatize the early republic and its transition to empire. Some critics limit their study of Shakespeare’s Rome to this trilogy, yet three other works of Shakespeare’s are clearly Roman: The Rape of Lucrece, a narrative poem, Titus Andronicus, an early tragedy, and the “romance” Cymbeline. Students in this course will embark on a sequential study of all six works.

This course will follow Shakespeare not only through his fascinating study of Roman history—from the ousting of the Tarquin Kings to the end of the empire—but also through his own artistic development as a poet and playwright—from early (Titus Andronicus, The Rape of Lucrece) to middle (Julius Caesar) to late (Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and Cymbeline). In this course, we will also examine his use of many different sources, including Plutarch, Virgil, Livy, Ovid and Boccaccio. Once the sources themselves have been interrogated and compared, the student will consider the poet’s own interpretive and imaginative process of transforming Roman history, myth, and story into Shakespearian art.

Conducted primarily in a seminar format, the course will feature lessons and online forums where students interact directly with Shakespeare’s texts and with one another in focused discussions centered on the weekly readings. In addition, students will spar with select scholarly articles in a series of short papers and a term paper that brings together and makes an argument about Shakespeare’s Roman works.


Demonstrating their own mastery of the primary narratives and independent thought about the scholarship, students should be able to discuss, answer, or comment on the following:

1. Shakespeare and history

How accurate to history are Shakespeare’s Roman works?

What do the plays reveal about contemporary attitudes toward the ancient Romans? What can we say about Elizabethan or Jacobean classicism?

2. Shakespeare and his sources

What sources does Shakespeare depend on for each work? What dramatic liberties does he take with historical narratives and to what dramatic ends? What can we say about his imaginative process as we consider his handling of his source material?

3. Shakespeare’s Roman works in sequence

Do the Roman works form a coherent whole? What ideas, images, and scenes overlap and comment on each other?

4. Shakespeare’s artistic development and critique

What can we say about Shakespeare’s early conceptions and imaginative technique as compared with his more mature artistic statements in the later plays?

5. Genre

What are the formal qualities of the narrative poem? What are the formal qualities of tragedy? What are the formal qualities of “Romance”?

6. Shakespeare and Rome

How does Shakespeare depict the Roman family, and what is its place in the city of Rome? What Roman values does Shakespeare champion or critique? What place does he give to pietas, honor, and constancy in his representation of the Roman hero?

PHIL543: Stoicism in Roman Thought

Instructor: Jonathan McIntosh

One of the most popular and influential of the Greek philosophical schools in Roman times was Stoicism, a system of thought that taught the universe was the product of an immanent and animating divine reason, and that human well-being therefore consisted in conforming one’s life to this providential order through virtuous living. Stoic ideas influenced all levels of Roman culture, from its speculative, moral, and political philosophy to its religion, literature, and architecture. In Stoicism, moreover, later Christian writers found an able intellectual ally in the battle against their own pagan critics.

This course focuses on the writings of such principal Roman Stoic philosophers as Cicero, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius, while also tracing the influence of Stoic ideas in such works of Roman and Christian literature as Virgil’s Aeneid, Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture, St. Augustine’s Literal Commentary on Genesis, and Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy. Class discussions will also touch on the presence of Stoic themes in more recent times, for example, in John Calvin’s doctrines of providence, Leibniz’s notion of the “best of all possible worlds,” Voltaire’s critique of the latter in his satirical Candide, and Adam Smith’s theory of the “invisible hand” in The Wealth of Nations. Through this course students will gain a critical appreciation of Stoicism from a Christian perspective.


  1. Students will read and gain familiarity with the major Roman Stoic writings, their ideas, and arguments.

  2. Students will learn to situate Stoic ideas and arguments in their historical, philosophical context, identifying Platonic and Aristotelian influences on the one hand and differences from the two other leading Hellenistic philosophies of Epicureanism and Academic Skepticism on the other.

  3. Students will relate each author’s advocacy of Stoicism to the author’s particular historical, social, and political context: e.g., Roman republicanism for Cicero, Roman imperialism for Seneca, Virgil, and Vitruvius, being a slave in the case of Epictetus, and being the Roman emperor in the case of Marcus Aurelius.

  4. Students will examine and consider the similarities and differences between Stoicism and Christian thought, and learn to identify Stoic ideas and arguments in modern Christian and theistic apologetics.

  5. Students will discuss and form views on the relevance and applicability of Stoic ideas and their critics to contemporary issues such as the debate between intelligent design and evolution, natural vs. positive law, and epistemological realism vs. skepticism.

  6. Students will practice their skills of reading analysis and interpretation through online writing and recitation assignments and in-residence seminar discussions.

  7. Students will hone their skills of independent research and writing through an end-of-term graduate paper.

HIS511: Christianity in American History

Instructor: Christopher Schlect

“The United States really is different,” argues prominent historian David Hollinger. “If there is such a thing as ‘American Exceptionalism,’” he says, “Christianity, even more than political economy, is the place to explore it.”[^1] Is Hollinger, an avowed atheist, correct? And if so, is Christianity’s importance overlooked in our historical reflection? Paul Harvey and Kevin Schultz think so. “Religion has yet to become central to the way in which most historians of modern America (since 1865) tell their story,” they claim. “Religion is everywhere in history, but nowhere in mainstream historiography.”[^2]Students in this course will enter this discussion by sampling some the most influential and the most recent historical scholarship on the history of American Christianity produced over the past two decades. Key issues to be discussed include (1) the peculiar shape of American religion; (2) how society and culture intersect; (2) how religion as a frame of analysis affects how historians view American culture, and (3) how confessional American Protestants should understand American evangelicalism.

This is a readings course, and will be conducted in seminar/discussion format.


Students who satisfactorily complete this course will…

  • …identify and explain key events in the development of Christianity in the United States;
  • …converse intelligently about key historiographical issues in the history of - American religion through reading representative works;
  • …develop skills in reading for argument and drawing different books into conversation with one another, and to position them within a broader historiographical conversation;
  • …form and defend their own opinions on the merits and drawbacks, the possibilities and limits of various historiographical approaches;
  • …mature in their ability to contribute productively to a critical and informed conversation on readings.

[^1]David A Hollinger, “Why Is There so Much Christianity in the United States? A Reply to Sommerville,” Church History 71, no. 4 (December 2002): 858–864.

[^2]Kevin M Schultz and Paul Harvey, “Everywhere and Nowhere: Recent Trends in American Religious History and Historiography,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 78, no. 1 (March 2010): 129–162. Schultz and Harvey make exception for scholarship on the history of Civil Rights and on the New Right.