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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jennifer Benner
HIST 207
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Intellectual History

Ideas in historical context. Comparative and developmental analysis of Western conceptions of "community," from Plato to Freud. Offered: jointly with CHID 207.

Class description

As this course covers a wide variety of thinkers and themes, and a time span of over 2,000 years, it is in no way an exhaustive survey of the topic. Rather it is intended as an introduction to the practice of intellectual history, or the comparative history of ideas, through selected canonical texts. As we approach each text and its historical context our central questions will be -- How are individuals and communities variously defined through their relationships to each other? And, How do these definitions change over time? We will focus on four thinkers in particular: Plato, St. Augustine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Sigmund Freud. While this course is European focused, we will also investigate the encounter between Europe (later “the West”) and other cultures. We will conclude by thinking about individuals and communities in a global world; to that end our final text is Amin Maalouf’s _In the Name of Identity_. Our goal is to appreciate and trace how ideas about individuals and communities change as we move from different places, times and thinkers, and finally, to put these thinkers and ideas into dialogue with each other. As historians we will endeavor to achieve this goal through productive discussion, careful readings and clear, critical writing.

A writing (“W”) credit is available to students who do a small amount of extra writing, please see me for specifics.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Three days a week are devoted to lectures with some in class discussion. One day a week students meet in small groups to discuss the readings. Fridays are a class-wide dicussion day.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Students will be required to write two take-home exams, keep a critical reading journal and write a final paper of about 8 pages.

Take-home Exam #1: 20% Take-home Exam #2: 20% Critical Reading Journal: 15% Final Paper: 25% Participation: 10%


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Jennifer Benner
Date: 04/08/2005