Information for Current Students
Because Core courses build on one another, they are taken in order – but not necessarily in the freshman and sophomore years. Most students begin Core their freshman year, but the program is flexible, so any course, particularly the “second year” courses, can be taken at any time in a student’s career.
To access an archive of syllabi for the Core courses, from the beginning of the program to the present semester, please visit the course syllabi page.
First Year, Fall
Begins in the ancient Near East with the origins of Mesopotamian civilization and the Hebrew Bible. Continues with an overview of the beginning and development of Greek civilization and careful study of Homer, Greek tragedy, and Plato. Students also examine architecture and the visual arts, as well as the relation of beauty and mathematics, with a study of the Parthenon and its role in Athenian Imperialism.
Core Natural Science parallels the first semester Humanities course by also studying origins, now of the physical world. Traces the evolution of the physical universe and our scientific understanding of it as a complement and contrast to humanities-based understandings of how we fit in the cosmos, such as those of Genesis or Homer. Topics include Big Bang theory, evolution of the stars and earth, evolution of life, and the origins of human life. Assignments include computer-based and experimental laboratory work.
First Year, Spring
The course includes Aristotle, Confucius, Laozi, the Bhagavad-Gita, Virgil, the Gospels, and Dante. Students compare Biblical and Classical views of the best way of human life, look at the synthesis of the two in Dante, and examine both in contrast to Eastern traditions, with a particular focus on the human connection to nature. A study of Western and Asian art at the Museum of Fine Arts complements our coursework.
Examines the nature of religion and its place in human society, moving from the classic works of social and political thought to the modern philosophical foundations of religious pluralism, the limits of religious toleration and the origin of the idea of a secular realm independent of religion. Works and historical moments studied include 16th century colonial Spain and the Americas, Hobbes, Locke, Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life and modern case studies.
Second Year, Fall
From the late Middle Ages through the burgeoning of Renaissance humanism to the baroque period. We examine the rise of national literatures, the origins of modern political and scientific thought, and the beginning of the comic novel. Students look at Petrarch, Montaigne, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Descartes, and Milton, as well as exploring the music of Bach and the art of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
In the second Core Social Sciences course we will study contemporary approaches to the problem of inequality in American society and around the globe. Beginning with anthropological and historical perspectives, lectures and readings will bring insights, statistical data, and modes of analysis from sociology, psychology, political science, economics, international relations, and environmental science. The goal of this course is to use exemplary research in the Social Sciences to grapple with a problem that has implications for almost every aspect of our social, political, and economic life today.
Second Year, Spring
From the Age of Reason through the Romantic Revolt to the modern world. We examine questions of social hierarchy and political power, as well as subjectivity and its relation to reason in Kant, Rousseau, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the Romantic poets, the art of Goya and music of Beethoven, and Nietzsche, ending in 20th century America with DuBois’ The Souls of Black Folk and the poetry of T. S. Eliot.
Studies the paradigm-shifting scientific theories which forced the 20th c. into a new understanding of our relation to the physical world, beginning with quantum theory and relativity and then exploring the Second Law of Thermodynamics, emergent properties, and neuroscience.