Justice and Community: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times (PL 201)
Is there really anything left to learn from thinkers of the ancient world? It seems we know so much more today, even though we are clearly mired in the same problems in our individual lives, our relationships to others and our political societies. Scientific knowledge, though desperately important in the positive transformation of our human world, is still not yet wisdom. What is wisdom then? It seems to be a form of understanding that precedes scientific understanding, and that has long been forgotten or neglected-- at least in the political realm.
The prime focus of this course is the thinking of ancient Greece, considered to be the foundation of the Western philosophical tradition. But we will also read literature from the Eastern tradition, as well as contemporary literary works and current events articles. Throughout the semester we will focus on questions that concern the relationship between the individual and her community, seeking to gain insight from ancient texts. Large questions about justice, responsibility, obligation and freedom will orient our thinking as we explore the works of wise people long since dead: the sages of the ancient world. We will consistently aim both to enjoy the literature of the ancient world on its own merits, and to explore, analyze, and make those texts relevant to today’s social, political and epistemological and metaphysical concerns.
Dr. Catriona Hanley has made Baltimore her base for close to fifteen years, though frequent years and semesters abroad within that time have kept her always returning fresh to this endlessly surprising town. Between travels in her student days, she took degrees from McGill University in Montreal as well as the Université de Montrèal, and was granted the Ph.D. at Loyola University Chicago. She specializes in the history of philosophy, with special interest in Greek and 20th-century Continental philosophy (Aristotle and Heidegger are particular favorites). Strange as it may seem, there is little she likes more than discussing metaphysics and epistemology. Recent interest has led her to studies in the philosophy of peace, and philosophy of culture. As of this writing she is in Italy, but promises to come home in time for the fall semester.
Life Worth Living: Writing Toward Happiness (WR 100)
This course will use the genre of the essay to explore how individuals and groups create definitions of happiness based upon values, beliefs, cultural backgrounds, societal influences, and more. We will consider how authors, artists, philosophers, and religious figures have framed our ideas of happiness, success, and fulfillment—as well as influenced our pursuit of these ideas. Students will analyze historic and contemporary definitions of happiness as well as develop their own working definition over the course of the semester. All coursework will be geared toward learning how to articulate and refine our ideas though the processes of writing and research. By examining happiness at a global, local, and personal level, we can begin to better understand ourselves and bring that understanding to the forefront of our consciousness. This course will include texts by C. S. Lewis, The Dalai Lama, Benjamin Franklin, David Foster Wallace, William Blake, John Keats, William James, and Aristotle, among others.
Enrichment sessions will be designed to expose us to a wide variety of perspectives and approaches toward happiness. Film and visual art often define happiness—or its pursuit—in a provocative manner that can deepen our conversation with more traditional written texts. We can also incorporate more active learning by practicing some of the means people use to achieve a happy state of mind, such as guided meditation, yoga, or artistic expression. We can then bring these experiences back to the classroom and incorporate them into our writing as well as our own working definitions of happiness.
Professor Laurence Ross received his MFA from the University of Alabama where he earned several awards for his teaching and served as the Creative Nonfiction Editor for Black Warrior Review. He has published his essays and reviews in literary journals such as Brevity, Hot Metal Bridge, Bluestem, and The Georgia Review as well as The Huffington Post. While living in New Orleans, Laurence Ross was a frequent contributor to Pelican Bomb, a regional publication dedicated to the Louisiana arts community. He also served as the Director of P.3Writes, a program in conjunction with U.S. Art Triennial Prospect New Orleans. Currently, Laurence Ross lives in Baltimore and teaches at Loyola University Maryland. He spends his summers as an Instructor of Creative Nonfiction for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth.
Teresa Heath -- Bio coming soon
Both courses in this pairing satisfy core requirements for all students. PL 201 is offered with a service learning option.