School of Arts and Sciences




 Course Number

HU 201-A

Course Title

  The Western Tradition I


 Fall Semester


 Spring Semester


Summer Semester

Credit Hours



Name of Instructor

 William Miller


Meeting Day, Time, and Room Number
 Tuesdays-Fridays, 12:30 to 2:00pm, Room G102 St. Joseph Hall


Final Exam Day, Time, and Room Number

 Friday, May 11, 12:00pm  G102 St. Joseph Hall


Office Hours, Location, Phone   Always email ahead of time! Ireton G107; 703-284-1687

 Tuesday-Fridays, 11:00-12:00pm, 2:00-3:00pm; Wednesdays by appointment.


 E-mail and Web Site Email is always the best way to reach me! All announcements and assignments are posted on this web site, never on Canvas.

Course Description This is the first half of an interdisciplinary humanities survey. It will focus on the seminal works (literary and artistic), figures, and ideas of Western Civilization, from its beginnings in the Middle East, through classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance. (3)





By accepting this syllabus, you pledge to uphold the principles of Academic Integrity expressed by the Marymount University Community. You agree to observe these principles yourself and to defend them against abuse by others. Items submitted for this course may be submitted to for analysis.


For the benefit of current and future students, work in this course may be used for educational critique, demonstrations, samples, presentations, and verification.  Outside of these uses, work shall not be sold, copied, broadcast, or distributed for profit without student consent. 

Please address any special challenges or needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester. Students seeking accommodations for a disability must complete the required steps for obtaining a Faculty Contact Sheet from the Office of Student Access Services (SAS). Students are then responsible for meeting with their instructors at the beginning of the semester to review and sign the Faculty Contact Sheet and develop a specific plan for providing the accommodations listed. Accommodations cannot be granted to students who fail to follow this process. Appointments with the SAS director can be scheduled through the Starfish "Success Network" tab in Canvas. For more information, check the SAS website, e-mail, or call 703-284-1538 to reach the SAS director or an academic support coordinator.


When students are absent due to a crisis situation or unexpected, serious illness and unable to contact their individual instructors directly, the Division of Student Affairs can send out an Emergency Notification. To initiate an Emergency Notification, students should contact the Division of Student Affairs 703-284-1615 or Emergency Notifications are NOT appropriate for non-emergency situations (e.g. car problems, planned absences, minor illnesses, or a past absence); are NOT a request or mandate to excuse an absence, which is at the sole discretion of the instructor; and are NOT a requirement for student absences. If a student contacts instructors about an emergency situation directly, it is not necessary to involve the Division of Student Affairs as arrangements are made to resolve the absence.

For non-emergency absences, students should inform their instructors directly. 


Copies of your work in this course including copies of any submitted papers and your portfolios may be kept on file for institutional research, assessment and accreditation purposes. All work used for these purposes will be submitted confidentially. 


Weather and Emergency closings are announced on Marymount’s web site:, through MUAlerts, area radio stations, and TV stations. You may also call the Weather and Emergency Hotline at (703) 526-6888 for current status. Unless otherwise advised by local media or by official bulletins listed above, students are expected to report for class as near normal time as possible on days when weather conditions are adverse. Decisions as to inclement closing or delayed opening are not generally made before 6:00 AM and by 3:00 PM for evening classes of the working day. Emergency closing could occur at any time making MUAlerts the most timely announcement mechanism. Students are expected to attend class if the University is not officially closed. If the University is closed, course content and assignments will still be covered as directed by the course instructor. Please look for communication from course instructor (e.g., Canvas) for information on course work during periods in which the University is closed.


This is the first half of an interdisciplinary humanities survey. It will focus on the seminal works (literary and artistic), figures, and ideas of Western Civilization, from its beginnings in the Middle East, through classical antiquity and the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance. The course focuses on contributions of the Classical (Greek and Roman), Christian (Judeo-Christian), native, and Muslim contributions to the creation of the Western or European civilization as it existed in the High Middle Ages.

2.  COURSE OBJECTIVES  Upon successful completion of this course students will be expected to:


A. demonstrate in writing and in class discussions an understanding of the Greek contributions to the discovery of the human soul, the development of philosophy, and the understanding of justice;

B. demonstrate in like fashion a familiarity with the different understandings of the divine and of man’s relation to God throughout the ancient and medieval periods of Europe’s history;

C. demonstrate in like fashion a familiarity with the role of the Church, the monks, the Church Fathers, and the principal political leaders and institutions in the formation of Europe;

D. demonstrate an understanding of the required readings through active participation in discussions;

E. demonstrate a basic ability to read primary works in cultural history with critical understanding—i.e., to grasp the author's main points, to identify his supporting arguments and rationales, and to offer cogent internal and external criticism of the readings; and,

F. engage in the practice of writing and critical reasoning by composing well organized, acceptably written, logically argued essays relating to the main concepts that we study in this course.




A combination of lectures, videos, class discussion, and class presentations will be employed. Active participation is expected in class discussions.




          Friday, February 16, 2018, is the last day to withdraw from a class without academic record.

          Friday, March 23, 2018, is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of W.


The final grade is based on a possible total of 100 points or 100 percent that includes grades for class assignments (which includes answering questions in class and participating in class discussions) and quizzes, three class presentations, one mid-term essay exam, and a final essay exam, as follows:


20% or 20 points = Class assignments, quizzes, and constructive contributions to class discussions.

30% or 30 points = Three presentations each worth 10% or ten points.

20% or 20 points = Mid-term exam.

30% or 30 points = Final exam.


The usual scale of 90-100%=A, 80-89%=B, 70-79%=C, 60-69%=D, and 59% and below=F will be used for all graded work.


The exams and the presentations are all based on the primary readings of the course: not on the class lectures, which are intended to help you understand the readings and not to substitute for the readings. No grade of "I" or "Incomplete" will be given. If possible, presentations and exams will be graded and returned within two weeks. No late presentations will be accepted. Presentation papers emailed to me by the due date and time will be accepted as long as you make the presentation at the next possible class. Students must retain a copy of each paper on their hard drive, thumb drive, or the cloud. 



Attendance: Beginning with the second week of classes, students are allowed a total of nine absences, excused and/or unexcused. Students who miss ten or more classes for any reason whatever will receive an “F” in the course.   

Each unexcused absence beyond three—up to the absolute limit of nine—will result in a lowering of the final grade by one percentage point. To be excused, an absence must be documented, unless I indicate otherwise. Excused absences are typically medical-, legal-, or job-related excuses. Acceptable documentation typically consists of a statement or form on official stationery (1) signed by a third party (doctor, police, judge, supervisor—not a parent or family member!) that (2) refers specifically to the day of absence from class and (3) the reason for the absence.


Occasionally coming to class late—even really late once or twice—is not considered an absence. Coming to class without hard copies of the text for the day, leaving the classroom for most of the class-time, or leaving class early without the prior permission of the instructor, however, is considered an unexcused absence.


Merely informing me ahead of time that you will be absent from class does not mean I excuse the absence, though I appreciate your courtesy. I will not excuse your absence because you are simply not feeling well or because you choose to do something worthwhile other than come to class even if you inform me ahead of time. If you are coughing and sneezing and coming down with a cold or the flu, and you don't want to spread your virus to your classmates, your fellow students and I salute you! Staying home may be the right thing to do, but it is not an excused absence. You all get three unexcused absences to use as you see fit, and it is your decision to use them to stay home when you don't feel well or want to attend some other event or need to prepare for another class instead of going to my class. Use them for good reasons: that's what they are for.


The limit of nine total absences recognizes that excessive excused absences may also be a problem. You should discuss such situations with me well before the last month of the semester. This is not a distance learning class. Any absence prevents you from participating in the class, but if your job or an illness keeps you away from class, it will significantly affect the class participation component of your grade and may be a good reason to drop the course and take it another time. All of us find ourselves in these situations from time to time and have to deal with them appropriately. You also have an obligation to report this to a University office (see the section titled “Attendance” in the University Catalogue).


Make-up Exams: The same basic rules about excused absences apply to taking mid-terms. My policy of giving makeup exams on the same day as the final does NOT mean that you may choose to take the mid-term exam on that day rather than on the regularly scheduled day: it is not an alternative test date. To be eligible for a makeup, you must qualify for an excused absence, and this you should do a reasonable time before the day of the mid-term, if that is at all possible. You may be excused from taking a mid-term if you are certifiably sick or your job prevents you from attending class or you have a legal or employment emergency on the day of the test. If one of these applies, and I am informed in a reasonable time before the exam, and you have written documentation to support your request, you may take the exam on the same day as the final exam. If none of these reasons apply, you may not take the exam at another time, and you will get a zero for the exam. Travel plans will never excuse an absence. Parental or family notes do not constitute proper documentation. If you are late for the exam because of events outside of your control, let me know immediately or as soon as possible that day, and I will let you take the exam later that same day if possible.



Dates are necessarily approximate. Always check the link for "Western Tradition I (Spring 2018)" under "Weekly Assignments" on my web page for the precise assignment.


Week I (1/16-19): Introduction to the course: readings on ancient societies.

Week II (1/23-26):  Readings from Greek sources—Homer, Hesiod, lyric poets.

Week III (1/30-2/2):  Readings from Greek sources—Tragic poets, pre-Socratic philosophers.

Week IV (2/6-9): Readings from Greek sources—Sophists, Socrates, Plato.

Week V (2/13-16): Student presentations

Week VI (2/20-23):  Readings from Hellenistic period; Greek and Roman art

Week VII (2/27-3/2):  Mid-term Exam;  Hebrew/Old Testament sources.

Week VIII (3/6-9): Hebrew-Christian sources—Christopher Dawson, New Testament.


Spring Break!


Week IX (3/20-23): The Dark Ages—readings from Christopher Dawson and primary sources.

Week X (3/27):  Student presentations

Week XI (4/6): The Dark Ages—readings from Christopher Dawson and primary sources.

Week XII (4/10-13): The Carolingian Renaissance—readings from Christopher Dawson and primary sources.

Week XIII (4/17-20): The Formation of Western Civilization—readings from Christopher Dawson and primary sources. 

Week XIV (4/24-27): The Formation of Western Civilization—readings from Christopher Dawson and primary sources. 

Week XV (5/1-4): Student Presentations


The final exam will be given only at the date and time prescribed by the University Final Exam Schedule, TBA. Make your travel plans accordingly!


6.  REQUIRED TEXT       

The only required hard copy next is the following:


Christopher Dawson, The Formation of Christendom. San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1965, 2008. ISBN 978-1-58617-239-8.


We will be using many of the materials from the following:


Marvin Perry, Sources of the Western Tradition: Brief Edition. Vol. 1. Wadsworth, 2005. ISBN 978-0-618539017

Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: A.D. 200-1000. 2d ed. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003. ISBN 978-0631221388

Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity. Norton, 1971, 1989. ISBN 978-0-393-95803-4


It will also be useful to have a copy of Colton and Palmer’s History of the Modern World, any edition. In the later two-volume editions of the work, volume one is what we will be using. Also useful is Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, New York: Doubleday Image Books, 1957, 1991. ISBN 978-0-38542110-2.




For the benefit of the class and your classmates, the following rules regarding electronic devices also apply to this course:

1.     Turn your cell phones off during the class. If you are expecting an important call, put your phone on “Vibrate,” sit near the door, and, when the call comes, answer it outside the classroom.

2.     It follows from the foregoing rule, but it must be separately stated: no talking and no texting on cell phones during class. If you do not follow this rule, I will publicly ask you to leave the room for the remainder of the class and will do my best to have you removed from the course for the rest of the semester.

3.     No open lap-top or other computers are allowed in class without my prior permission. Devices such as phones, tablets, Ipads, Kindles, and Nooks that lie flat on the desk and on to which the readings can be loaded are permitted if approved by me, but hard copies of the readings are better. You can mark them up and take notes on them in class. None of the texts this semester are legally available on digital devices, however. You must bring and use the hard copy texts.

4. Be sure to check your Marymount email address regularly! This is Marymount’s and my principal way of contacting you with important information. Perhaps you rely mostly on Yahoo, g-mail, or some other provider, but check your mail daily to make sure you do not miss school information.


These rules are necessary to foster a suitable learning environment in the classroom during class. There are enough distractions with lawnmowers, air conditioners, and other outside forces to combat during lectures and discussions.