Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

One Last Humanities Program Post

I know this is probably only of interest to a subset of readers, and I'll doubtless get busy and move on to other topics soon (I've had the luxury of time over the last week since my mother-in-law has been here to help with Her Tiny Cuteness) but I've just finished putting together rough cuts of the lists for the 3rd and 4th years of the high school level Humanities Program, and I'd like to solicit feedback from them that's interested in such things.

Year Three: From the Rise of Islam to the Protestant Reformation

Year Four: The Modern World

In Year 4 especially I have the feeling that the list is both too long and incomplete, as is perhaps necessary in such an attempt.

The goal here is to lean more towards cultural literacy and having a feel for the flow of history than hitting all the Great Ideas type works, so a lot of the heavy duty philosophy that you'd find in a traditional Great Books list is not here. Suggestions and comments very much welcome.

You are welcome comment there as well as here if that's easier, but if I proceed to make a bunch of changes to the lists I may eventually clear out the comments on the Human. Prog site for the sake of cleanliness and relevance. That, and I'm thinking I need to come up with a more actionable format broken into weeks, not to mention links to editions and brief framing commentary on some of the works.


Brandon said...

I like both lists quite a bit. I only have a few random thoughts that might not go anywhere.

Machiavelli's Prince is on both; I don't know if that was intentional.

I find the notion of third year high schoolers reading Capellanus somewhat interesting; for courtly love I would have gone with Guillaume de Lorris's unfinished Romance of the Rose (although not Jean de Meun's continuation) instead.

The metaphysical poets seem very heavily represented relative to other poetic movements -- not that there's anything wrong with that. I have to confess that I'd never even heard of Siegfrid Sassoon.

The Russians also seem to be rather heavily represented, although perhaps that's appropriate if the list is partly intended to give some sense of history.

Two other candidates that might fit fairly well into your lists would be Cantar del mio Cid (for the first) and Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography (for the second).

Darwin said...

Ah, the Machiavelli duplication was a mistake -- now corrected. Though he really is double the fun...

On courtly love: the version that I did actually had me reading both Art of Courtly Love and Romance of the Rose as well as various Arthurian pieces (what can I say, my Dad was a bit of a medievalist.) To the best of my rather sketchy recollection, I found Capellanus enjoyably arch (not nearly as fun as Ovid's Ars Amoris -- but then, that wasn't assigned) and the Romance of the Rose boring, though that was mainly the longer, second part. So in an effort to shorten up I dropped the one and kept the other. Honestly, though, that's one of the instances where I very much need to go back and re-read the sources, as it's been fifteen years and neither stayed with me well.

On the metaphysical poets -- That may or may not need to be thinned a bit. My thinking had been to select 2-3 poems from each in order to keep it quick and manageable. I'd like to include more from the later schools of the 18th and 19th centuries, and some Eliot and a couple other non-Great War 20th century poets, but I need to sit down with some anthologies and see what seems appropriate. Poetry isn't my strongest suite. Suggestions welcome.

If I were to drop a Russian, I'd probably drop Uncle Vanya or Crime and Punishment, but the former would only save a day's reading time and the later seems hard to part with... Hmmm. Probably also personal preference -- I just find the Russians very interesting.

I should look at Cantar del mio Cid -- I haven't read it. It looks like a workable length.

Another friend suggested The Knight Of The Cart, which I likewise haven't read and should look into.

Franklin's Autobiography is a point of shame: It was on the original list and I skipped it when I was in high school because I ran out of time. Still haven't read it, but ought to. (It's on "my list" but these lists get out of control...)

Brandon said...

I think the most palpable gaps on the poetic side are actually the Lake Poets (Wordsworth, Coleridge) and the Romantics (Byron, Shelley, Keats). The closer one gets to the present age, the harder it is to sort out poets; there are always so many, and in the twentieth century, because they differentiate themselves deliberately by artificial methods, they are legion, and can't be easily thrown together. I suspect probably the best thing is just to focus on poets high school students are likely to find easy to appreciate: people like Kipling, Sitwell, Frost, Auden, perhaps Ruth Pitter -- i.e., poets whose poems tell stories or describe obvious and well-known things more than those who dabble in various poetic experiments. Students with a taste for poetry can easily branch out on their own from there; whereas students without much taste for poetry will still find something they can understand and analyze.

I think the de Lorris Roman (the first part) is a fairly straightforward read; it would go well with Capellanus and is approachable in a way that the de Meun Roman (the interminable second part) isn't. I actually like the de Meun piece, but it's a long-haul, heavy labor bit of poetry, for people with a certain kind of taste; I wouldn't recommend it for high school students generally.

I stopped keeping 'lists' once it became clear that it was getting into the thousands. Except where you have very specific interests (e.g., a particular author, or a particular subject), there's much to be said for eschewing system and following the providence method of reading -- just reading what falls in your lap when it happens to do so!