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    Cultural Perspectives

    The Core Texts Program is a two semester course sequence, Cultural Perspectives 101 and 102,  taken by all Samford University students. In these courses students engage ideas that form a narrative of human learning. Here, they are taught to read, think, and communicate by interacting with classic texts that have stood the test of time.

    For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives.
    Marcus Tullius Cicero

    Every culture seeks to explain human nature, the natural world, religion, and political community. The Core Texts Program ensures that our graduates understand this quest. Even more, it equips them to enter their chosen profession confident they are capable of meaningful critical thought.

    While our curriculum emphasizes Western thinkers, we also recognize that certain perennial themes are part of the development of every culture and civilization. Disparate voices in time and place often converge in the task of transmitting values. To this end, the curriculum integrates texts from non-western, or global sources, including especially Asia and Latin America.

    Goals+

    The Core Texts Program emphasizes words from the past because we think they matter for the present. Four words in particular summarize our purpose: Quaestio, Disputatio, Fides, Ratio.

    Inquiry (Quaestio)

    We teach our students how to ask questions of texts and ideas.

    Discussion (Disputatio)

    We emphasize the place of conversation and debate for the life of the mind.

    Faith (Fides)

    We believe the Christian faith in order that we may understand our nature, hope, and purpose.

    Reason (Ratio)

    We develop the rational faculty as a principle of the soul, trained through discipline and habit.

    Philosophy+

    Inquiry, discussion, faith, and reason reveal what make us human. From its earliest inception higher education pursued questions and answers that transmitted values from one generation to the next. Many contemporary college and university curriculums neglect this pursuit. Samford's Core Texts Program gives it primacy of place. We equip our students with an intellectual narrative that will help them navigate the modern world's complicated marketplace of ideas. Our curriculum emphasizes the Western intellectual tradition and Christian intellectual tradition, but it also includes important voices from non-Western cultures. We cherish the great writers and thinkers of the past, yet we also recognize that their wisdom must constantly be translated for a new generation.

    For centuries reading great works of literature, history, philosophy, and theology served as an initiation into the life of a mature educated person. The mind and the soul were believed to share a relationship, and curriculums were designed to cultivate the moral reasoning skills required of civilized people. In recent decades universities have largely abandoned this enterprise. At Samford, however, we still value the transformative experience that comes from engaging significant ideas that shape our civilization and its values.

    History+

    In the fall of 1997, Samford University introduced an entirely new Core Curriculum for its undergraduate programs. Referred to simply as "the Core," the new curriculum replaced an outdated and disparate list of general education requirements with an integrated course of study to be completed the first two years of college. This curriculum has become an essential part of Samford's undergraduate experience. It touches every aspect of university life by serving as the centripetal scholarly force uniting the humanities, the sciences, and the professional schools.
     
    A general element of the Core Curriculum is Cultural Perspectives, a two-semester introduction to the humanities. Led by Dean Rod Davis, Dr. John Mayfield, and Dr. Rosemary Fisk, Howard College faculty designed a course that would introduce freshmen to their intellectual heritage and challenge them to think beyond that heritage. As professors from many disciplines, they decided to put their diversity to good use to create a course that is interdisciplinary yet interconnected. To that end, all sections of Cultural Perspectives share a common chronology and certain common texts, but each professor approaches the material by drawing from the strengths of their disciplinary training.
     
    During the first two years of the new curriculum, professors experimented with readings that complemented the common texts. Every section's list was different, yet certain works appeared consistently. It seemed advisable to bring these readings together in a shared sourcebook for the sake of convenience and cost. The sourcebook is just that--a book of sources, materials which can be used in class, in research projects, and for personal enlightenment. We do not pretend that these readings form a canon of any sort; they represent only a tiny fragment of the thousands of documents that have shaped our culture. They are, however, a starting point, an introduction to our common conversation with the western intellectual tradition and other intellectual traditions from around the world.

    Opportunities+

    The Core Texts Program offers a number of opportunities that encourage student intellectual development in their first year of college:

    • An entire academic year studying great works of literature, philosophy, history, and theology;
    • Small conversational class sizes;
    • Published professors who model the writing and reasoning skills they are teaching;
    • Study abroad opportunities in Athens, Rome, and London;
    • Public events reflecting the themes of the program; and
    • The belief that education is fundamentally relational, and as such, involves trust.

    Core Texts In London

    Each fall faculty nominate the top students from their classes to participate in the London Core Texts Program held every May at the conclusion of Spring semester. This unique two week experience allows talented and ambitious students an opportunity to study important authors and see famous sites from English history and literature while staying at Samford University's London residence, The Daniel House.

    Classics Trips to Athens and Rome

    The Core Texts Program helps to identify and encourage first-year students who would like to participate in the Classics Department trips to Athens and Rome. Each January the Classics Department annually alternates a spectacular three week educational experience in Greece and Italy where students can experience the cultures that gave us the foundational literature of Western civilization.

    Student Teaching Assistants

    The Core Texts Program is devising a system of student mentoring that utilizes talented upper division students in Humanities majors to assist faculty and first-year students as tutors and discussion leaders. These assistants will represent the best of their majors, and they will help our freshman adjust to the "great conversation" of Cultural Perspectives.

    Core Texts Debates/Discussions

    The Core Texts Program sponsors three events through the academic year where students witness first-hand a debate or discussion relevant to themes covered in the course: Between Jerusalem and Athens is an annual fall presentation about the theological and philosophical intersection of the Classical and Christian worlds. The Winter Reformation Debate hosted each February covers a significant topic related to the theological issues surrounding the Protestant Reformation. Making Sense of Modernity held each April addressing theological and philosophical issues relevant to the modern and post-modern period.

    Student Paper Award

    Each academic year faculty nominate student papers to be considered for the award of best Cultural Perspectives Student Paper of The Year. First, second, and third place winners are recognized with a cash prize presented at a spring reception at the president's house.

    Fall Curriculum+

    Fall semester, students are introduced to great thinkers from the Greeks, the Romans, Early Christianity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance.

    Greece and the Ancient World

    • Homer, The Iliad
    • Greek Tragedy: Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes
    • Herodotus, Histories
    • Plato, Republic, Death of Socrates
    • Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics

    Rome and Early Christianity

    • Vergil, The Aeneid
    • Cicero, Defense Speeches
    • Seneca, Selected Letters
    • Augustine, Confessions, The City of God
    • The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas

    Middle Ages

    • Benedict of Nursia, Rule of Saint Benedict
    • Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
    • Marie de France, The Lais
    • Julian of Norwich, Revelations
    • Dante, The Divine Comedy

    Renaissance and European Exploration

    • Christine de Pizan, City of Ladies
    • Shakespeare, King Lear
    • Pico de Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man
    • Popul Vu
    • Sonnet Collection
    • Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex

    101 Asian World Core Texts

    • Confucius, The Analects
    • Siddhartha Gautama, The Path to Enlightenment
    • Buddhist Nuns, Therigatha
    • Lao Tzu, Tao-te Ching
     

    Spring Curriculum+

    Spring semester takes them through the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the ideological foment of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

    Early Modernity

    • Martin Luther, Freedom of A Christian
    • John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion
    • Ignatius Loyola, Autobiography, Spiritual Exercises
    • Margaret Fell, Women Speaking
    • Galileo Galilei, Letter to The Grand Duchess Christina
    • Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method

    Enlightenment

    • Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
    • John Locke, Second Treatise On Government
    • Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
    • Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Age of Reason
    • Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of The Rights of Woman
    • Novel and Poetry (Various Authors)

    Nineteenth Century

    • Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
    • Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals  
    • Novel and Poetry (Various Authors)

    Twentieth Century

    Faculty conclude the course by choosing from a wide selection of texts that reflect the complexity of contemporary thought. Choices range from the Post-Colonial novel to various treatises on the horrors of Totalitarianism. Important works from Existentialist, Feminist, Marxist, and Post-Modern authors are used, as are texts that offer provocative responses to the Post-Modern condition including works by C. S. Lewis, Alasdair Macintyre, and Pope John Paul II.