The Humanistic Tradition I

From the Ancient World to The Reformation

Course Description

Professor: Robert W. Brown

The Humanistic Tradition (HON 200) is an interdisciplinary seminar in the humanities that introduces mankind’s most enduring creations in art, architecture, literature, thought, and music.  It begins with the invention of civilization in the Near East and concludes with the Protestant Reformation.  Because this time span covers thousands of years of eventful human history, we will encounter, and even then all-too-briefly, only a few of the finest examples of mankind’s achievements.  Owing to the overwhelming importance of Greek civilization, one of the three major roots (the Classical) of our western cultural tradition, for the subsequent history of western art, architecture, literature, and thought, we will give an extended study to this ancient people and the many superlative works conceived and constructed by them.  We will next, after venturing but a passing glance at the Hellenistic era and the “grandeur that was Rome,” focus our attention on the origin, nature, and early history of the Christian religion, the second of our cultural roots (the Judeo-Christian), and on that great medieval civilization, rooted in the culture of the Germanic barbarians (the third of our cultural roots) yet permeated with the spirit of Christianity, that grew up, flourished, and then declined in the thousand years between AD 500 and 1500.  Our semester will conclude with a study of new movements in the arts and in thought that appeared during the Late Middle Ages and that gave birth to the Renaissance and the Reformation, the beginning of modern times.  This course satisfies the UNC Pembroke General Education objective that students "should demonstrate knowledge of, appreciation for, and understanding of the contributions to society of" the arts, literature, history, and ideas.

Course Materials

Course Syllabus

Course Outline and Assigned Readings

Class I Presentation
The Humanistic Tradition:
Study Questions for Reading Assignments.
The Matter of Style
Introduction to the Study Questions

Introduction: Prehistory and the Birth of Civilization.

Chapter 1: Egypt: Gods, Rulers, and the Social Order.

Chapter 2: Mesopotamia: Gods, Rulers, and the Social Order.

Chapter 4: Greece: Humanism and the Speculative Leap.

Chapter 5: Greece: The Classical Style.

Chapter 6: Rome: The Rise to Empire.

Chapter 8: A Flowering of Faith: Christianity.

Chapter 9: The Language of Faith: Symbolism and the Arts.

Chapter 11: Patterns of Medieval Life.

Chapter 12: Christianity and the Medieval Mind.

Chapter 13: The Medieval Synthesis in the Arts.

Chapter 15: Adversity and Challenge: The Fourteenth-century Transition.

Chapter 16: Classical Humanism in the Age of the Renaissance.

Chapter 17:  Renaissance Artists: Disciples of Nature, Masters of Invention.

Chapter 19: Protest and Reform: The Waning of the Old Order.

Study Guides for the Tests

Essay I
Essay II
Essay III

Test I
Test II
Test III

Other Course Materials

Guide to World Wide Web sites for The Humanistic Tradition I

Instructions for the Analysis of an Internet Site

Instructions for the Preparation of the Statement of Topic and the Annotated Bibliography

Instructions for the Analysis of a Painting, Work of Sculpture, Building (or other Work of Art)


This Page is Maintained by Robert W. Brown
Last Update:  16.VIII.2006

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