Syllabus Drafts

As a result of sifting through research notes and reflecting on my own teaching experiences, I’ve started to put together syllabus drafts for future courses. These proposed courses include introductory courses in classical civilization, closer investigations of individual threads from my Core Curriculum teaching, and more advanced studies of Latin language and literautre for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. (I’m slowly putting together a graduate syllabus on Latin Lexicography, too.) Feel free to mine these drafts for designing courses of your own:

  • The Moral Citizen (PDF)
    • Our decisions about how to act are almost never simple. Should we strive to obey our country’s laws, or should we follow a set of guiding religious or philosophical principles? Should we direct our lives toward some broader social or political aim, or should we seek out a pleasant existence for our individual selves? Should we expect others around us to follow the ethical rules we set up for ourselves, or should we expect them to determine their own guidelines, even if they differ from our own? These questions have vexed philosophical and religious thinkers for millennia, and there are no easy answers for any of them. In this course, we will look at a selection of ancient and early modern thinkers who provide compelling yet competing views on these central considerations of what one must do to be a good human and a good citizen.
  • Rhetoric on Trial: Proof and Persuasion from Plato to Portia (PDF)
    • In his dialogue Gorgias, Plato sharply contrasts rhetoric and philosophy, calling the former a kind of knack—akin to cooking—not worthy of the status of a technē or art. This survey of rhetoric takes Plato’s criticism as its point of departure and asks students to assess the purpose and craft of rhetoric by looking not only at theoretical treatments but also at some notable examples of its practice. Students will gain a familiarity with the ancient foundations of rhetoric and will use these texts to analyze the techniques of persuasion in speeches, with a special focus on courtroom oratory.
  • Tip of the Tongue: The End of Political Speech (PDF)
    • In his Brutus, Cicero considers the history of Roman oratory and its perilous decline in the political upheavals of the late republic. This anxiety presages the problems of the early empire, where ascendant autocratic rule complicates if not outright undermines the traditional role of political and legal oratory: in a political system where the rule of law is embodied in the principate, to what degree does one need politicians and lawyers to persuade a senate or a jury? Roman writers were not of one mind in their approach to these pressing questions, and this upper-level Latin course examines how two towering figures of imperial literature—the historian Tacitus and the rhetorical educator Quintilian—treat these anxieties.
  • Latin Lexicography (In Preparation)
    • This seminar trains students both in the history of the study of the Latin language and in some practical methods used in modern lexicographical research. Beginning with readings from Varro’s De Lingua Latina, Festus’ De Significatu Verborum, and a variety of ancient grammatical texts, our syllabus first examines ancient efforts to understand the origins of the Latin language and to systematize its contours. Using these early linguistic excavations as its point of departure, the course turns to later works like Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae, Valla’s Elegantiae, and Erasmus’ De Copia to compare the methods and aims of their cataloging efforts. Students will also complete a series of practical and evaluative exercises in modern lexicographical practices as they bear on works such as Lewis and Short’s A Latin Dictionary, the Oxford Latin Dictionary, the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, as well as Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language.

Columbia Core Curriculum

In my current Lecturer position at Columbia, I teach Contemporary Civilization, the year-long sophomore survey of social, political, and philosophical thought, which runs from antiquity to the twentieth century. To supplement the course’s required texts, I have experimented a bit by adding late works like Elizabeth Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy” and Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, both of which are effective as retrospective considerations of the two-semester arc. I’ve posted PDFs of my CC syllabus (fall, spring) for those who are considering drafting similar courses at other institutions.