History of Ideas

Imagine full class debates over the relative merits of the paganism and Christianity in Beowulf, or the implications and appropriateness of the punishments in Dante's Inferno. What would you have to say?

The History of Ideas is an interdisciplinary minor that invites faculty from many different areas, such as philosophy and religious studies, history, English, modern and classical languages, even psychology, to teach courses that engage our students in discussion of the major ideas and intellectual problems from antiquity to modernity, through the close study of primary texts. Favorite among History of Ideas students are Homer's Odyssey, Dante's Inferno and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

The History of Ideas program offers the challenge (and the satisfaction!) of trying to understand these texts within the context of traditions such as religion, philosophy, literature and the social sciences as well as considering topics such as art, gender or race.

Although these are honors courses, anyone can enroll in them and complete the minor. Think seminar-type courses sound a little dry? Not in History of Ideas! These courses are designed to encourage lively discussion of intellectually engaging issues.

History of Ideas Minor

The History of Ideas program provides an opportunity to explore some of the most influential works in world history. Students will engage in the "close reading" of primary source texts from antiquity to the present with a focus on ideas central to religion, philosophy, art, literature and the social sciences. Small class sizes and a student-centered pedagogy encourage lively discussion and the development  of critical thinking and writing skills.

For additional information on this program, see History of Ideas.

A minimum 20 credit hours, including:

NOTE: The courses listed herein have been approved by the faculty as authorized by the Board of Trustees.  Prerequisites (if any) and the General Education Requirement(s) which each course fulfills (if any) are noted following each course description.

Current course offerings are available in Merlin.

IDEA 100 Authority and Freedom (4.00)
This gateway course to the History of Ideas program exposes students to some of the most influential texts in world history. Students explore fundamental questions about the human experience by highlighting the various ways that the ancients contemplated the relationship between submission to authority and the pursuit of freedom. Students develop critical thinking and writing skills by engaging in the “close reading” of primary source texts, student-centered class discussions, and writing exercises that help students develop their own perspectives on the relationship between authority and freedom.
Cardinal Directions Designation(s): Humanities.
iCon(s): Thinking Globally.

IDEA 210 Cultures in Contact (4.00)
An exploration of the expanding networks of cultural, commercial and religious exchanges that mark the millennium between 500 and 1500 CE. This is a period in which major events and trends confronted people with the problem of negotiating cultural difference and led to the development of new social and cultural forms. This course examines how such encounters were experienced and interpreted during some of this era’s major historical turning points.
Cardinal Directions Designation(s): Humanities, Global Understanding.
iCon(s): Being Human, Thinking Globally.

IDEA 220 Power and Statecraft (4.00)
An examination of influential accounts and critiques of the relationship between power and statecraft in various cultural traditions, both Western and non-Western, from 1500 to 1800. Particular emphasis is given to the development of Western imperialism as the dominant global force during this period.
Cardinal Directions Designation(s): Humanities.

IDEA 230 Revolutions (4.00)
An exploration of the revolutionary ideas that transform politics, economics and aesthetics from 1800 to the present in the context of a globally connected but deeply unequal world, marked by divisions of race, class, gender and sexuality.
Cardinal Directions Designation(s): Humanities.

IDEA 360 Advanced Seminar (4.00)
An advanced level seminar that provides the opportunity for students to engage in the in-depth study of texts or other creative works associated with a major thinker, tradition or theme in intellectual history.

Faculty and Staff

Religious Studies

Brian Hoffert

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History; Coordinator of History of Ideas; Coordinator of East Asian Studies

Religious Studies

Shelley Birdsong

Associate Professor of Religious Studies

History

Luke Franks

Associate Professor of History; Chairperson, Department of History

Religious Studies

Perry Hamalis

Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion; Professor of Religious Studies

Religious Studies

Wioleta Polinska

Professor of Religious Studies; Chairperson, Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy

English

Sohinee Roy

Associate Professor of English

Extra-curricular and professional activities that will enrich your history of ideas education.

Students who have earned a minor in the History of Ideas have pursued an enormous number of careers and disciplines. Recent graduates have enrolled in doctoral programs in medicine, biology, mathematics, history and law. Others have moved into business, pursuing careers in computer firms, Ford Motor Company or starting their own businesses. Still others have pursued positions in government and non-profit organizations such as the Peace Corps. The History of Ideas prepares students to pursue the careers of their choice.

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