This site serves as a teaching and learning resource for “The Western Tradition,” a four-semester course at Davidson College.
If you are here to learn more about the program, click on the images below for a summary of each semester and peruse the posts below.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We’d love to talk.
HUM 150: The Ancient World
We begin the semester outside of Europe, in Baghdad, with The Epic of Gilgamesh. After studying the Hebrew Bible (Genesis and Exodus), we read parts of Homer’s Iliad before turning our attention to Classical Athens — its drama, philosophy, and writing of history. The rise of Rome signals the end of the first term.
Image: The Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis (completed in 438 BCE)
HUM 151W: Late Antiquity and the Medieval World
In this semester we explore the Mediterranean World at the time of Virgil and study early Christianity before turning to Islam and the Middle Ages. We end, appropriately enough, with the Black Death and ask the polemical question “The Middle of What?”. Readings range from the Gospel of Mark and Augustine’s Confessions to primary sources on medieval life, The Song of Roland, and Dante’s Inferno.
Image: Latin Bible on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England (1407)
HUM 250: From the Renaissance through the Eighteenth Century
The semester begins with Petrarch and ends with Joann Wolfgang von Goethe. In between, readings include Machiavelli’s Prince, Thomas More’s Utopia, Luther, Shakespeare, and Milton. We devote some time to the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution before discussing the Enlightenment. Philosophers include Descartes, Locke, and Immanuel Kant.
Image: Petrus Plancius, Orbis terrarum (1590)
HUM 251: The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
The semester typically begins with the French Revolution and ends with the Beatles. In the past, readings have included Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, T.S. Eliot’s “Waste Land”, Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis”, as well as selections from Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents and Friedrich Nietzsche, among others. The semester concludes with a look back at the beginnings of the course.
Image: Geo Milev, Dancing Figure (1919)
The Humanities Program fosters a unique atmosphere of teaching and learning by combining lecture-style teaching with the intimate setting of a seminar. Sometimes, however, we take our issues outside.
Film screenings constitute perhaps the most common extracurricular activity, but on occasion we also make our way to Charlotte. Recent outings have included visits to Opera Carolina, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. On campus, we make time for talks, exhibits, concerts, and theater performances that relate to our curriculum, such as the recent production of Pride and Prejudice (right: Samantha Krusi ’13 as Elizabeth Bennet). It’s all a great way to extend the course beyond the classroom.
"The Western Tradition" (Humanities 150, 151W, 250, 251) is a four-semester interdisciplinary course for first- and second-year students. It aims to help students understand the main currents in the Western Tradition from antiquity until the present and to appreciate literary, religious, philosophical, and artistic monuments of the past.
Each course of the sequence combines lectures and small group discussions, paying particular attention to careful reading and writing. Each course is taught by a staff of faculty members representing several departments or disciplines, with the staff …