FYS 2009

Politics the Old fashioned Way: Alexander the Great

 

 

Description

 

A brilliant master of public image, Alexander the Great of Macedonia was a spectacularly successful and powerful political figure. His carefully crafted images were enhanced and transmitted through the media of the day: literary and historical works, inscribed dedications, sculpture, coins, and architecture. In addition, this ruler fostered state cults that approached personality cults. An appreciation of this ancient spin master is especially relevant as we look at recent, contemporary, and future  political events, such as Indecision 2000, Decision 2004, California Mediacracy, Decision 2008, and Presidential heroizing / demonizing in a time of short- and long-term international crises, Presidential and Presidential candidate image-crafting in time of war.

Alexander inspired nearly visceral reactions that were at one extreme or another, strong loyalty bordering upon fanaticism on the one hand, utter hatred on the other. It was impossible to remain neutral. This bipolarity has extended even to modern scholarship, with some scholars seeing such rulers as enlightened despots, others as cruel tyrants.

The purpose of the course is to examine how this superstar ruler acquired such images and learn how to look behind the images at the ruler himself. During the first part of the course, we will consider how ancient written sources, monuments, coins, and sculpture drove images of power. We will read selected passages in translation from, e.g., Arrian, and epigraphical evidence. We will also examine ancient buildings, sculpture, and coins that served to enhance the imperial image. Furthermore, contemporary and recent works on Alexander will be read critically to enable the student to see how Classical scholarship itself, shaped by its own social and political contexts, has helped to reshape the very historical figures that they portray.

The second part of the course will be devoted to the Classical Greek background, against which Alexander developed a new paradigm of leadership. Athens traditionally was seen as the center of gravity for Hellenic culture. Alexander and his successors tried to mediate between the increasing political and military centrality of Macedonia and the traditional Hellenic culture embodied by Athens. We will examine 5th century Athenian political and cultural institutions, and finish up the course by reading Aristophanes' Lysistrata.

FYS seminars focus on developing the student's abilities in the following areas: reading, writing, critical thinking, research, informed discussion, and creativity. Through this particular section the student will learn to assess critically and interpret an array of sources, both ancient and modern, and to synthesize seemingly disparate classes of evidence. In addition to common readings, students will work individually and in groups on specific topics, e.g. W. Tarn on Alexander the Great (Tarn is strongly in the pro-Alexander camp), and will learn how to evaluate and interpret such sources. You will, therefore, be engaged in research, critical reading, and critical writing.

While a small part of class time will be devoted to providing the basic background for Classical-Hellenistic Greece, most class time will be used for class discussion and for research project presentations.

In terms of the semester schedule, the course is loaded pretty heavily at the front end. We meet for many hours during Orientation Week. Your first graded work (apart from class participation) is due on tba. This means that you will have feedback - a good thing! - on college level work very early in the semester.

Students in the course are expected to adhere to the provisions of the SU Honor Code, and to add and sign the pledge: ""I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not." While you may study together, ultimately all work (except for group projects) must be your worl alone.

Southwestern University will make reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.  To arrange accommodations students should contact the Assistant Director of Access and Academic Resources within the Center for Academic Success (Cullen Building, 3rd floor; phone 863-1286; e-mail carterk@southwestern.edu).  Students seeking accommodations should notify the Assistant Director of Access and Academic Resources at least two weeks before services are needed.  It is the student's responsibility to discuss any necessary accommodations with the appropriate faculty member.

Feel free to make postings to the discussion page (tab above), to bring up whatever (relevant!) issues you wish.

 

 

Requirements

 

Examinations. There will be two during the semester, including the final. The first exam covers material relating to Alexander the Great and includes objective questions (for example, fill in the blank) and essays. The final contains objective questions relating to material after the first exam, and essay questions relating to material from the entire course, including Presentations #2 (see below). Please note that make-up exams are the rare exception, not the rule, and are allowed at the discretion of the instructor; such matters must be arranged in advance of the regularly scheduled exam time.

Papers/Projects (Paper #1; Paper #2). There will be two short papers/projects. Paper #1 is to be about 5 pages in length. Paper/Project #2 may be a traditional paper or a multi-media presentation. A list of suggested topics will be provided by the instructor, although students may propose their own topics; student-proposed topics must be approved by the instructor in advance.

Presentations (Presentation #1; Presentation #2). Each student will prepare and present to the class two oral presentations. Students will work in groups or three or four. The first presentation will focus on Alexander, the second on a study of how a fall 2008 political race compares to image promotion of Alexander. Students should make these presentations with computer support (e.g. web browser or Microsoft Powerpoint) or slides (the instructor will provide help with technological issues). Included in the documentation submitted separately to the instructor is to be an outline of each student's contribution to the project. Attendance is mandatory for all students at these classes and all material presented becomes course content for all students.

Diversity on Campus: An FYS Conversation. A requirement for all FYS sections, this folds nicely into the academic content for the course (Alexander's notion of cosmopolitanism).

Class participation/Attendance. Students are expected to attend class. Lectures/ discussions are not re-runs of assignments. The grade for preparation/class participation will be based upon attendance and upon participation in class discussion; class discussion means "quality" and not necessarily "quantity." Class discussion also reveals to a certain extent preparation. Participation in Presentations will also affect this grade.

In class, students should feel free to express their own opinions on various matters related to the course and to ask questions. Students' interpretations need not necessarily be the same as those of the instructor. As long as interpretations are based upon reasoned assessments of the evidence (literary, historical, archaeological), they are as valid as the instructor's.

This concept has been reinforced through cooperative work of SU students and faculty, which resulted in a provision of the SU Academic Rights for Students. It bears repeating here:

Faculty members should encourage free thought and expression both in the classroom and out. Students are entitled to disagree with interpretation of data or views of a faculty member and reserve judgment in matters of opinion, but this disagreement does not excuse them from learning the content of any course for which they are enrolled or from demonstrating skills and competencies required by a faculty member. Students should be evaluated solely on academic performance.

Note: Make-up exams, presentations, and late papers are the exception, and not the rule, and permission will not be granted automatically. Make-ups must be arranged with the instructor in advance of the regularly scheduled time, and will be given (or not) at the discretion of the instructor.

 

 

 

Grading

 

Graded work:

  • Exams

 

Exam #1

Final Exam

20%

20%

  • Papers

 

Paper #1

Paper #2

10%

10%

  • Presentations

 

Presentation #1

Presentation #2

10%

10%

  • Class participation

20%

Final Grades

The plus and minus grading system, in effect at Southwestern, will be used for final grades. Semester % averages will translate to the following letter grades:

GRADE

INCLUSIVE
% RANGE

GPA POINTS
EQUIV.

A+

96.7-100.0

4.00

A

93.4-96.6

4.00

A-

90.0-93.3

3.67

B+

86.7-89.9

3.33

B

83.4-86.6

3.00

B-

80.0-83.3

2.67

C+

76.7-79.9

2.33

C

73.4-76.6

2.00

C-

70.0-73.3

1.67

D+

66.7-69.9

1.33

D

63.4-66.6

1.00

D-

60.0-63.3

0.67

F

0.0-59.9

0.00

 

 

 

Assignments / Class

Syllabus


Date

Topic

Assignment (to be completed by class time that day)

August 17
Class 1
Monday
10-12

Library FYS Resource Page

Library Alexander/Augustus Page

P. Green, Alexander of Macedon (summer reading)

August 18
Class 2
Tuesday
9-12

 

Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Literature I
Library session, 11:00, SLC

Romm, pp. 1-16, 24-32


 

 

August 20
Class 3
Thursday
9-12

Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Literature II

Borza, Intro. to Wilken, Source Problem;

 

August 21
Class 4
Friday
10-12

Reading ancient texts

Arrian, Introduction

 

(no later than Aug. 25)

 

rough draft (optional) (submit to haskell@southwestern.edu)

 

August 25
Class 5
Tuesday
9:30-10:45

Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Literature III

Romm, pp. 70-74, 94-107, 157-164;

Chios inscriptions

 

August 27
Class 6
Thursday
9:30-10:45

Interpretations of Alexander: Unity of Humankind

Paper #1

 

Sept. 1
Class 7
Tuesday
9:30-10:45

Ancient Interpretations of Alexander : Ancient Iconography I

Lawton

 

September 3
Class 8
Thursday
9:30-10:45

 

ancient and contemporary politics

Washington Post

(text version)

 

September 8
Class 9
Tuesday
9:30-10:45

Student presentations (Alexander)

Andronikos, 218-224

 

September 10
Class 10
Thursday
9:30-10:45

Student presentations (Alexander)


 

September 15
Tuesday
9:30-10:45

 

Exam

#1

 


 

 

September 17
Class 11
Thursday
9:30-10:45

 CLA


C. Blackwell, Athenian Democracy: A Brief Overview


 

September 22
Class 12
Tuesday
9:30-10:45

Hellenistic; background

C. Blackwell, Athenian Democracy: A Brief Overview

 

September 24
Class 13
Thursday
9:30-10:45

Diversity, Dr. Maura Cullen, Alma Thomas

"Old Oligarch"
Thucydides, Pericles' Funeral Oration

 

September 28
Monday

 Athenian democracy II

 

 

Paper #2 rough draft (required), hard copy

(due no later than Monday office hour (5-6 pm)

 

 

September 29
Class 14
Tuesday
9:30-10:45

Student presentations

  •  

 

 

October 1
Class 15
Thursday
9:30-10:45

Student presentations:

 

 

October 6
Class 16
Tuesday
9:30-10:45


Aristophanes
Intercultural. 9:30

 

 

 

Aristophanes, Frogs

Paper / Project #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 8
Thursday
9:30-10:45

Final

 

 

Exam