Instructor: Kenny Morrell
Meeting Time and Place: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 1:00 to 1:50 pm;
Instructor’s Office: Halliburton Tower (Gooch Hall) 403.
I am generally on campus from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 pm. My scheduled office hours this semester will be on Mondays from 11:00 am to 12:00 noon; Tuesdays from 11:00 to 12:00 pm; and Wednesdays from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. I am also happy to schedule a meeting at our mutual convenience. You may assume that I am available for consultation whenever I am in my office with the door open. If you find my door closed, I am either not in my office, or I am in my office but in a videoconference. Please do not knock.
Telephone: My office phone number is 901-843-3821, and my cell phone is 202-257-6269. I do not have a landline at home. (Feel free to call between the hours of 7:00 am and 10:00 pm)
Electronic communication: I prefer that you use email@example.com. (My account at Rhodes is firstname.lastname@example.org.) You can also use email@example.com. My Skype and Google+ name is kennymorrell.
This course fulfills one of the first foundation requirements (F1), which calls for you to:
Critically examine questions of meaning and value. Questions about the meaning and purpose of life are central to human existence. Every area of the Rhodes curriculum touches in some way upon such problems and questions, whether directly as in moral philosophy, epic poetry, and political thought, or indirectly as in studies of the history of medieval Europe, economic theory, and the physical structure of the universe. This requirement is to be satisfied with three courses, either the Search sequence or the Life sequence.
Beyond challenging you to examine your perspectives and values, this course also aims to help you develop the ability to:
1. Read critically
2. Discuss topics with clarity and a command of relevant and factual information
3. Identify passages from the readings and describe them in clear, concise academic prose
This course focuses on developing the ability to read critically, listen attentively, and construct knowledge from the readings and through conversations with other members of the class in both written and spoken contexts. Consequently, the most basic requirement for this course is attending the plenary sessions and colloquia. The plenary sessions serve two important functions. First, they provide contextualizing information for the readings. Second, they offer members of the Search community the opportunity to develop the ability to listen carefully and critically follow a verbal and visual presentation.
The attendance policy reflects national norms based on data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Full-time employees on average receive eight days of paid sick leave per year. The semester consists of approximately sixteen weeks, or one third of a year, so you may miss up to three class meetings for whatever reason without penalty. I will record your attendance at the plenary sessions, so make sure I am aware of your presence. The record of your contributions to the discussion as described below will document your attendance in the colloquia. For each session you miss after those three allowed absences, I will subtract three points from your attendance grade. So, for the fourth time you miss class, your attendance grade will go down to ninety-seven from one hundred. Your grade for attendance will account for ten percent of your final grade.
As noted above and in “Humanities 101 (2018),” one of the goals of this course is to help you develop an ability to “discuss topics with clarity and a command of relevant and factual information.” To this end, you must contribute substantively to the discussions that take place during colloquia.
Contributing to those discussions will require you to
1. Engage thoughtfully with the reading before coming to class
2. Have access to a copy of the text and your notes during the discussion
3. Listen carefully and respectfully to what other members of the class say
4. Express your ideas clearly, concisely, and politely and supporting your views with appropriate evidence
The format of the discussion may vary, and other activities such as debates and working on assignments in small groups may take place during the colloquia. In every colloquium, regardless of the format, we will observe a professional decorum and comply with the following guidelines:
1. You must be on time.
2. You MUST bring the texts we are discussing to class. This is an absolute and non-negotiable rule for our colloquia. Athletes do not go to practices or a games without their required gear, e.g., shoes; carpenters, plumbers, and electricians do not show up for work without their tools; musicians do not attend rehearsals and performances without their instruments. You will NOT come to colloquium without the assigned texts. Period. All of the assigned texts are available in multiple formats from a variety of vendors and repositories, such as libraries. In other words, the unavailability of a text in the campus bookstore does NOT constitute an excuse. Your professor welcomes and encourages the use of digital texts. However, you may NOT access them on a laptop or smartphone. You will need a tablet, such as a Kindle, Nook Tablet, iPad, Galaxy Tab, ZenPad, or Pixel, and you will have to disconnect it from the Internet during discussion, for example by placing it in airplane mode. If you forget to bring your texts to colloquium, we will not wait for you to retrieve them. You will simply be recorded as absent.
3. You MUST bring your project notebook (as described below) and the tools you need to record your thoughts in the notebook (e.g., pencils or pens). You may not take notes on a laptop. The act of typing not only disrupts the conversation it is also yields fewer cognitive benefits. (For more on this, see Mueller and Oppenheimer 2014.)
4. You will complete an online quiz at the beginning of each class session, as described below, so you will need to access the Internet, for example with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. After you take the quiz, you may continue to use a tablet to access digital versions of the readings. You may NOT use smartphones or laptops and MUST put them away for the duration of the class. Only one member of the class, the ereunētés, as described below may use their laptop. According to the World Bank, people born in the United States in 2000 could expect to live about seventy-seven years. The Social Security Administration has a slightly more optimistic outlook, projecting a life expectancy of 86.2 years for females and 82.2 years for males. If you live as long as the World Bank estimates, the fifty minutes you spend in class represents about one ten thousandth of one percent of your expected lifespan. For that minuscule amount of time, out of courtesy to the other members of the class, who are leading equally exiting and compelling lives, you can go without making or receiving phone calls, reading or sending text messages, reading or sending email, or accessing and updating your various social media channels unless directed by me, your professor, as part of the activities of the colloquium. You can and should concentrate on what your peers have to say about the readings and topics of discussion and share your own thoughtful views with them.
4. Unless there is some emergency you should plan on remaining in class for the full fifty-minute period. Having to check text messages does not constitute an emergency. Please use the restroom before colloquium or wait until after and bring an adequate supply of tissue, if your nose is running.
5. You may bring a beverage to class but dispose of chewing gum before the colloquium begins. Do not bring food (unless it is a special occasion, you bring enough for everyone in the section, and you have made arrangements with me, your professor, in advance).
Please bear in mind that the time we spend in the colloquia will never be sufficient to address the full range of ideas, topics, and concerns that will arise from engaging with the materials we study. Typically, for each colloquium we will discuss just one topic. Your responsibility for the assigned readings, therefore, will extend well beyond what we can explicitly cover in class during any one colloquium.
We will stream every colloquium meeting on YouTube where participants will be able to access the archived recording on the Zētēsis Courses channel. Participants in the colloquia will serve four roles, as assigned randomly using random.org: the epistātēs (ἐπιστάτης), who will initiate and direct the discussion, the ereunētés (ἐρευνητής), the researcher, who will manage access to online information to supplement the conversations, the optēr (ὀπτήρ), who will manage the videography, and the statistikológos (στατιστικολόγος), who will track the discussion and score contributions to the discussion based on an evaluative rubric. Serving as statistikológoi may call for reviewing the recordings on YouTube to ensure the accuracy of the scoring. The statistikológoi will have to spend a very modest amount of time outside of class to complete an overall assessment of the discussion. If they turn the completed scorecard in at the beginning of the NEXT class meeting, they will received ten extra credit points, which they can add to their quiz scores.
There will be thirty-six colloquia this semester. I will expect every student to participate significantly in at least thirty-three of those discussions. Making two complete and substantive contributions to the discussion will constitute significant participation, for which you will receive a point. Failing to contribute substantively will yield a zero for the day. At the end of the semester, I will divide the number of points you have accumulated by thirty-three. That score will represent your grade for the discussion component of the course, which constitutes twenty-five percent of your final grade. The scorecard will document your participation in the discussion. Those who serve as epistātēs, ereunētés, optēr, and statistikológos will automatically receive a point for the colloquium. They are welcome and should, whenever possible, contribute to the discussion, but their first priority is to fulfill their responsibilities for the production of the colloquium.
At the beginning of every colloquium, there will be a short quiz on the assigned readings and the content of plenary sessions. Typically, the quizzes will consist of five multiple-choice questions. Your performance on the quizzes will account for fifteen percent of your final grade.
Properly preparing for colloquia will require you to spend two hours each night Sunday through Thursday. You can increase the productivity of these periods of study by following these guidelines:
1. Since your preparation will involve writing, study sitting down at a desk with adequate space for your books and journal and sufficient lighting. (Natural is better than artificial light.) DO NOT study in bed or while lying down on a couch.
2. Eliminate distractions. You cannot concentrate on more than one task at a time. In other words, attempting to “multitask” is nothing more than sequentially switching your focus from one task to another. This switching back and forth actually diminishes one’s ability to perform any of the individual tasks. Therefore, you cannot pay attention to what is happening on television, for example, and engage with a text at the same time. Isolate yourself from social media, email, telephone conversations, and videoconferencing. That means, essentially, putting your electronic devices into “airplane” mode during your study sessions.
3. Establish a routine and ask your friends and members of your family to avoid contacting you during your study sessions. Likewise, do not contact or disturb others during their periods of study.
Engaging thoughtfully with the readings during these study sessions typically includes such activities as
1. Marking the text (underlining, highlighting)
2. Annotating the text with observations, explanatory notes, and cross-references to other passages and texts (These annotations may appear in the margins of the text, on pages at the beginning or end of the text, or in another document such as a journal.)
3. Writing brief summaries of the readings and outlines of the arguments.
Recording one’s ideas and perspectives is as important as conceiving and developing them. The value of an education in the liberal arts has been a recent topic of interest. Here are just three articles that have appeared over the last few years:
George Anders, “That ‘Useless’ Liberal Arts Degree Has Become Tech’s Hottest Ticket,” Forbes, August 17, 2015 (https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeanders/2015/07/29/liberal-arts-degree-tech/.)
Tracy Chou, “A leading Silicon Valley engineer explains why every tech worker needs a humanities education,” Quartz, June 28, 2017 (https://qz.com/1016900/tracy-chou-leading-silicon-valley-engineer-explains-why-every-tech-worker-needs-a-humanities-education/)
J.M. Olegarz, “Liberal Arts in the Data Age,” Harvard Business Review, July-August 2017 Issue. (https://hbr.org/2017/07/liberal-arts-in-the-data-age)
One of main aspects of such an education as reflected in the objectives for this course is the ability to write clearly, concisely, and cogently. This will be vital not only for your success in this course and during your academic training here at Rhodes but in every phase of your professional engagement after you graduate. Here are just two examples of how people, who have shaped your lives in very tangible ways value this skill. The first is from Andrew Grove, who joined Intel at its founding in 1968 as the director of engineering and eventually became CEO (At this very moment you are likely to have a device with an Intel chip), writes in his High Output Management (1995) about writing:
So why are written reports necessary at all? They obviously can’t provide timely information. What they do is constitute an archive of data, help to validate ad hoc inputs, and catch, in safety net fashion, anything you may have missed. But reports also have another totally different function. As they are formulated and written, the author is forced to be more precise than he might be verbally. Hence their value stems from the discipline and the thinking the writer is forced to impose upon himself as he identifies and deals with trouble spots in his presentation. Reports are more medium of self discipline than a way to communicate information. Writing the report is important; reading it often is not” (48).
A second perspective comes from Amazon. In his article about the founder, Jeff Bezos, Adam Lashinsky writes in the December 2012 edition of Fortune:
Jeff Bezos likes to read. That’s a dog-bites-man revelation if ever there was one, considering that Bezos is the cerebral founder and chief executive of a $100 billion empire built on books. More revealing is that the Amazon CEO’s fondness for the written word drives one of his primary, and peculiar, tools for managing his company: Meetings of his “S-team” of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team–including Bezos–consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes. (Yes, the e-ink purveyor prefers paper. Ironic, no?) They scribble notes in the margins while the authors of the memos wait for Bezos and his minions to finish reading.
Amazon executives call these documents “narratives,” and even Bezos realizes that for the uninitiated–and fans of the PowerPoint presentation–the process is a bit odd. “For new employees, it’s a strange initial experience,” he tells Fortune. “They’re just not accustomed to sitting silently in a room and doing study hall with a bunch of executives.” Bezos says the act of communal reading guarantees the group’s undivided attention. Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master. “Full sentences are harder to write,” he says. “They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking” (100).
You should not be under the impression that you can productively study the materials, effectively participate in the discussions, and perform successfully on the examinations without recording your observations, questions, and responses to the questions and perspectives of others. It is a way to organize and clarify your thoughts. (This process is vital for your cognitive development. See Karpicke 2012.) Your contributions to the discussions during every colloquium will come from what you have WRITTEN in your journal, and you can expect me from time to time to ask you to READ or SEND me AN IMAGE of what you have recorded. Consequently, you must document your scholarly work for this course in a journal with the following specifications
1. It must be bound so pages will not fall out (i.e., no spiral-bound notebooks).
2. The pages must be numbered.
3. At least two pages at the beginning of the journal must be left free to accommodate the table of contents you will construct at the end of the semester.
I have ordered project notebooks from Bookfactory.com, which are available in the bookstore along with the other texts for this course. Please bring your project notebook to every plenary session and colloquium along with the texts. Your performance in the discussions will reflect the quality of what you record in your journal.
There will be two 50-minute midterms during the semester. The first will be available at 8:00 am on Sunday, September 30, and you will have until 8:00 am on the following day, Monday, October 1, to complete the exercise, which will account for eight percent of your final grade. It will cover the selections from the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Descent of Inanna, the Odyssey, selections from the poetry of Sappho, and Genesis, the first book of the Torah (Hebrew Bible). The second will be available at 8:00 am on Sunday, November 4, and you will have until 8:00 am on the following day, Monday, November 5, to complete the exercise, which will again account for eight percent of your final grade. It will cover the readings from the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 1-20, Joshua, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and 1 Kings 1-4), Herodotus’ Histories, Euripides’ Helen and Electra. The final examination will take place at 1:00 pm on Friday, December 7. You will have 150 minutes to complete the exam, which will cover the readings from Plato (Timaeus, Phaedrus and Symposium), Aristotle, the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs from the Hebrew Bible. Unlike the midterms, the final examination will be worth ten percent of your final grade. All three tests during the semester will require you to identify, contextualize, and interpret passages drawn from the readings. These identifications should be one or two paragraphs in length and include the following elements:
1. Name and author (if known) of the text in which the passage appears
2. The context within the narrative where the passage appears, and, if the passage is a quote, the speaker and addressee
3. The significance of the passage both within the context of the relevant narrative itself and the broader themes, ideas, and concepts we address in the course
There will be three writing assignments this semester. Each will involve the skills necessary for effectively working with primary sources. Each will be worth eight percent of your final grade. Please consult the “Guidelines and Objectives for the Writing Assignments” for further information. They will be due on the following dates at 5:00 pm:
Sunday, September 16
Sunday, October 28
Sunday, December 2
First Year Seminar and Advising
As noted above, the three central activities of this course are (1) carefully reading and critically thinking about the texts, (2) articulating your understanding and perspectives on the texts during the colloquia, and (3) expressing your ideas in written form observing the conventions of academic writing. Generating and sustaining a discussion that enables the participants in the class to construct knowledge of the material is the highest priority for every colloquium. The integration of the First Year Seminar and this section of Humanities 101 will provide opportunities to discuss other aspects of the course, such as the writing assignments, examinations, and additional contextualizing information, continue particularly productive conversations and consider other texts, works of art, or films, address the responsibilities and privileges of being a member of the academic community at Rhodes, become familiar with the conventions (e.g., rules, policies, and protocols) of collegiate life and the resources available to help ensure a successful experience. Below is the schedule for this section (11) of the FYS. All meetings will take place on Mondays from 4:20 to 5:10 pm in Clough 204, with the exception of the visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, which will take place from 10:00 am to 12:30 . To pass this component of the course and fulfill the F12 graduation requirement, you must attend thirteen (13) of the fifteen meetings. (Please note If you have a college-sanctioned activity that will require you to miss one or more seminars during the semester, you should talk to your professor in advance of the anticipated absence.)
|Day and Date||Topics|
|Friday, August 17||Advising Meeting (We will meet just outside of Briggs 001): we will discuss strategies for constructing a plan of study and academic productivity.|
|Monday, August 20||Preparation for the trip to the NCRM. Please read Odyssey 1 in advance of our meeting and listen to “I Am Curious, Jello,” act two of episode 285 (“Know Your Enemy”) of This American Life. (You might want to listen to the other acts as well.)|
|Tuesday, August 21||Visit to the National Civil Rights Museum (10:00 am to 12:30 pm) and subsequent meeting to discuss the experience from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. For this experience, please read (and listen to the following): “I Have a Dream,” “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” and the speech of Robert F. Kennedy at a campaign rally in Indianapolis on the night of King’s death.|
|Monday, August 27||Community engagement in preparation for the SACK (“Student Activity, Community, and Kinney) Fair on August 28, 29, and 30 and Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad in preparation for the author’s visit to campus on Thursday, September 6 at 6:00 pm in McNeil Hall.|
|Monday, September 10||Network of resources for academic support, the first writing assignment, Odyssey 13-16|
|Monday, September 17||Preparation for midterm examinations and health|
|Monday, September 24||Common Session: Thriving Academically|
|Monday, October 1||Exodus 1-20|
|Monday, October 8||Mapping communities in preparation for visit of Stefanie Elizondo Griest and her reading from All the Agents and Saints on Thursday, October 18 at 7:00 pm in Hardie Auditorium and planning for the spring semester and beyond.|
|Monday, October 22||Discussion of the second writing assignment|
|Monday, October 29||Common Session: Healthy communities – mental health (McNeill Hall)|
|Monday, November 5||Plato’s Timaeus, creation stories, synthetic, artificial human beings in preparation for Claire Colebrook’s visit to campus and lecture on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on Thursday, November 15 at 6:00 pm in Hardie Auditorium.|
|Monday, November 12||Preparation for finals and the third writing assignment|
|Monday, November 19||Common Session: What is it about Memphis music? (McNeill Hall)|
|Monday, November 26||Common Session: The Memphis Center Presents MLK50, where do we go from here? (McNeill Hall)|
|Monday, December 3||Celebrating the holidays, evaluations|
The college and humanities program often sponsors various events related to this course and its objectives. Information will appear in the calendar as it becomes available. All of the events sponsored by Communities in Conversation qualify. For each of these events you attend, you can earn up to three extra-credit points, which you can add to any of the grades from examinations and writing assignments. Qualifying for credit will require a brief post on zetesis.org. The specifications for those posts will be a topic of discussion in the workshops. Here are dates of three Communities in Conversation events.
September 6: Colson Whitehead will be on campus to discuss his book The Underground Railroad, for which Whitehead received the National Book Award in 2016 and the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. He will speak at 6:00 pm in McNeil Hall.
October 18: Stefanie Elizondo Griest will present a lecture, Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands in Hardie Auditorium at 7:00 pm. Her presentation is based on her book All the Agents and Saints (2017).
November 15: Claire Colebrook will present a lecture in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 6:00 pm in Hardie Auditorium.
Summary of Graded Components
For each of the following components, you will receive a grade of one to one hundred, which will then contribute to the final semester grade in the following percentages:
|Component||Percentage of Final Grade|
|First midterm examination||8%|
|Second midterm examination||8%|
|First writing assignment||8%|
|Second writing assignment||8%|
|Third writing assignment||8%|
Required Audio Recordings
We will engage with the Iliad and Herodotus’ Histories as audiences in ancient Greece would have experienced it, as performances. Please obtain the following audiobooks:
Homer. Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald. Narrated by Dan Stevens. New York: Macmillan Audio, 2014. [Audible] As you will note on the calendar for the course, your assignments will reflect the audio version, which will require a total of ten hours and fifteen minutes of listening time (at the normal audio speed).
With the exception of secondary materials, such as the introductions, none of the texts we will read and study originated in English. They will all be translations from Assyrian, ancient Greek, or Hebrew, and for each one a number of translations are available. Consequently, the success of our collaborative engagement with the texts in this course will depend partly on working from the same set versions. For example, when the time comes for you to identify and discuss passages on the midterm and final examinations, they will come from the editions listed below. Therefore, everyone in the course will need to have these specific translations in printed or digital formats. Printed editions are available in the Rhodes College Bookstore. Ebook versions are available for most, and I have provided links in square brackets after each item to the sources. If a link does not follow an entry, there is no ebook, and you should obtain the printed edition. As noted above, I welcome the use of digital versions and will use them myself. However, if you choose to use them as well, you will need to access them during class on a smartphone or tablet.
Anon. The Descent of Inanna. Translated Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer. In Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer. New York: Harper and Row, 1983.
Coogan, Michael D. et al., ed. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. 4th ed. New York: Oxford, 2010. [Kindle]
Herodotus. The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. Translated by Andrea L. Purvis. New York: Anchor Books, 2009.
Your grade in this class will be confidential. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 restricts those with whom I can share your grade and certain forms of data upon which I base your grade. With regard to other matters that do not pertain directly to this course, I will do my best to help in any way I can, and you can assume that I will hold our conversations in confidence. However, please keep in mind that I am under the legal mandate to report any incidents of sexual misconduct that comes to my attention. That means that I cannot keep information about sexual misconduct confidential from the college if you share that information with me, but the college has specific confidentiality and anti-retaliation protections in place.
The Rhodes Counseling Center or the Student Health Services Staff can advise you confidentially. Also, the Title IX Coordinator can help you access other resources on campus and in the local community. The student policy is in the Student Handbook and it can be found on the web site at http://handbook.rhodes.edu/title-ix.