What is a Classic? Texts that have had a permanent significance for generations of readers. Influenced great minds and shaped cultural heritages. They speak to our reality and open up for us questions relative to our being.
What do we read in CVSP courses? There are certain texts that have passed the test of time. They have influenced great minds and shaped cultural heritages – either universally or in a specific cultural milieu. In a sense, they formed a vital part of the public consciousness of many people or societies throughout the centuries till our present day. They speak to our reality and our existence today and open up for us questions relative to our being in the 21 st century. They have an element of connectedness with the understanding of ourselves and our societies.
Why do we read? Books do something that other cultural products do not/cannot do. There is a pleasure in reading a difficult book and developing a sense of a critical understanding. To be trained to understand and hence question every text we analyze, and get exposed to a culture of various discourses and of open discussion. We develop a culture of debate which is at the core of critical thinking and of academic life. Together we would become accomplished active readers who appreciate ambiguity and complexity, and who can articulate our own interpretations with an awareness and curiosity for other perspectives.
The Land Between the Two Rivers
The Epic > An epic is sublime authoritative narrative which went through a long period of oral tradition before it was written in poetry. > The author of an epic poem is unknown – most probably it is a cumulative work of many authors over a long period of time. > It is a narrative poem that narrates the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures and reflects a heroic ethos. > The events and the heroic deeds must have been significant to the audience; the hero embodies the values of a culture. > An epic is apt to condense long-drawn tensions into brief senses of dramatic power enhanced by visual magnificence that we call dramatic moments. They are expressive of their mother cultures.
Myth Epics are mythical in the sense that a myth is “a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.” (Dictionary)
Polytheism The belief in many gods; a hierarchical pantheon of gods each representing a cosmic phenomenon and a defined sphere of influence, with a higher god residing as a supreme figure. Belief in many demonic and ghostly forces in addition to the gods, and some supernatural beings will be malicious. The gods interfere in human affairs and intermarry with them. The balanced worshipper does not pick and choose between them but pays some respect to them all.
The Hero (Gilgamesh & Odysseus) Hero = godlike person with many characteristics: Handsome appearance and strength, heroes are subjected to the harshness of their fate and shaped by the obstacles of their journeys.
The Hero II Often, heroes begin their voyages full of recklessness and selfishness, yet at the end, they acquire wisdom, justice and a story of their own. A hero excels in skill and courage faces difficulties and obstacles created to him by the gods. accepts challenges and stands up to them fights against monsters and demons makes unnecessary risks and discovers frightful and unknown lands and mysteries.
Journey as “Rite of Passage” A rite of passage (initiation rite) is a ritual that marks a change in a person's social or sexual status. Rites of passage are often ceremonies surrounding events such as childbirth, or other milestones within puberty, and coming of age.ritualsocial ceremonieschildbirthpubertycoming of age Rites of passage have three phases: separation, liminality, and incorporation. In the first phase, people withdraw from the group and begin moving from one place or status to another. In the third phase, they reenter society, having completed the rite. The liminal phase is the period between states, during which people have left one place or state but haven't yet entered or joined the next. Initiation is a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society. It could also be a formal admission to adulthood in a community or one of its formal components. In an extended sense it can also signify a transformation in which the initiate is 'reborn' into a new role.liminalityrite of passageceremony (From Wikipedia)
The Greek Polis Polis. A community of adult male citizens (since women and children as well as slaves are non-citizens have no rights). The polis exists for the sake of good life. Direct participation in the making of rational choices after discussion. A human being fulfils his humanity and excellence as an active member of the polis.
“War is a violent teacher.” History means inquiry; causes and effects of the war; selecting key events; using his reason and intelligence. Against excess in power - part of the mentality of empire. Contrast between right and might; the Melian dialogue. Thucydides understanding of Human Nature is Pessimistic. "There is no human nature apart from culture." (Clifford Geertz) Thucydides
Tragic ambiguity and human goodness Tragedy: tragic action and human contentment and goodness. Tragic hero in misfortune and at grips with his destiny “moira.” A good person could fall short of full “goodness” under circumstances not under his control (). Excellence & standing up to challenges.
Oedipus in grips with his destiny “moira”
Plato’s Quest for Justice Plato’s Quest for Justice Justice in the city is the condition in which each part of a thing performs the task to which it is in a sense naturally suited; thus are all the aspects of excellence (aretai) present (432b-34, ).
Aristotle, Ethics Our choice/or avoidance is affected by 3 factors: 1.The fine #The base = low, degrading 2.The advantageous #The harmful 3.The Pleasant #The painful
The Mean (the middle btw two extremes) The mean RELATIVE TO US and this mean is not arithmetical (p. 100). Any one who is aiming at the mean should (p. 109): 1. Keep away from the extreme which is more contrary to the mean (Calypso’s advice); 2. Notice our errors and drag ourselves in the opposite direction; 3. Guard especially against pleasure and pleasant things.
Lecretius Epicurus ( BCE) & the law of nature The permanent constituents of the universe: atoms and void How atoms explain phenomena The nature and mortality of the soul Phenomena of the soul The cosmos and its mortality Cosmic phenomena