Politics the Old Fashioned Way
Alexander the Great

Fall 2011 (VERY TENTATIVE)

A brilliant master of public image, Alexander the Great of Vergina IvoryMacedonia 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 Decision 2008, and Decision 2010, Decision 2012, 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.

Course Goals

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 some 5th century literature.

Learning Outcomes

Through the following process,

students will learn to research, synthesize, and draw reasoned arguments from the evidence of literature, history, philosophy, art and archaeology.


 

FYS

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.

Mechanics

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 xxxx. 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 work 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 (Prothro Center room 120; 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.

 

 

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.
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.
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 later (ancient through contemporary) program compares to image promotion of Alexander. Students may make these presentations with computer support (e.g. web browser or Microsoft Powerpoint) (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.

 

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

 

General Information:
Southwestern University, along with other colleges and universities, is partnering with the Council for Aid to Education in national study on the effectiveness of higher education in improving critical thinking, writing, and analysis skills. Specifically this study, and the instrument students will be participating with, investigate the "value-added" aspect of a student's college education. Students from around the country will be taking part in the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) this fall and spring. Over the next four - five weeks, one hundred incoming first-year students will be engaged in a 90 minute assessment exercise, using an on-line process. In the spring, the same exercise will be given to one hundred graduating seniors. The CLA will assess students' abilities in using data to solve real world problems. By comparing first-years to seniors at the same institution, we are able to see how much the college experience at SU contributed to our students' analytical, problem-solving, and writing abilities. (Hence, the "value-added" description!)

You will be asked to 1) perform "real-life" tasks (such as preparing a memo or policy recommendation) given several documents or 2) prepare essay responses to simple prompts (eg. "There is no such thing as truth in the media; the one true thing about information media is that they exist only to entertain"). Participation will require about 90 minutes, and will test your critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills. Regardless of your major, the ability to critique, analyze, and communicate effectively is essential. The CLA will tell you where you stand on these key attributes of academic and professional success (you will receive your individualized test results). As part of the national study, we will be able to see how various college curricula and environments influence students' ability to identify, analyze, and solve problems. In other words, how has your college experience enhanced your ability to think critically about a novel situation, and how does that vary among colleges?

 

Assignments

Week Topic Assignment (due by class time)
0
Mon. (10-12 am) P. Green, Alexander of Macedon (summer reading)
Tues. (9-12 am) Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Literature I Romm, pp. 1-16, 24-32
Thurs. (9-12 am) Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Literature II Borza, Intro. to Wilken, Source Problem
Fri. (10-12 am) Reading ancient text Arrian, Introduction
1
Tues. Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Literature; Unity of Humankind Romm #2, pp. 70-74, 94-107, 157-164; Chios Inscriptions PDF document
Thurs. Unity of Humankind (cont.): Complexity of Identity (see link below)
Ancient Interpretations of Alexander: Ancient Iconography I
Paper #1 due (submission link below)
2 Tues.  
Thurs.  
3 Tues.  
Thurs.  
4 Tues.  
Thurs.  
5 Tues.  
Thurs.  
6 Tues.  
Thurs.  
7 Tues.  
Thurs. FINAL EXAM