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GH 201: Introduction to the Ancient Enduring Great Works: Wisdom

The purpose of this course is to explore enduring books of literature, philosophy, history and religion, from The Epic of Gilgamesh in Mesopotamia to the play Everyman from the late Middle Ages, with a focus on wisdom. While most of the reading will be great books from the ancient world, we will "flash forward" to works from later periods inspired by those world classics. Some of the questions that we will explore include:

  • What does it mean to be wise? What wise ideas keep recurring through the great literary, religious and philosophical masterpieces?
  • What recurring wise ideas are applicable to our lives today? What do the great thinkers, artists and holy men of the past say about who we are, why we are alive and how we should live to best fulfill our humanity.
  • Where does wisdom come from?
    • Does wisdom come from involvement with the outside world? If so, does it come from communing with Nature, from knowledge attained from books, from practical experience, or from helping our fellow beings?
    • If wisdom comes from explorations inside the self, what aspects of the self are prominent in attaining wisdom: our mind, our heart, our senses, our intuition or our urge to believe in something higher than ourselves?

Among the great "wisdom" works to be read and discussed include:

  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The Bhagavad-Gita
  • The Tao Te Ching
  • The Analects by Confucius
  • Antigoneand Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles
  • Plato’s "Parable of the Cave" and Aristotle's notion of the "Golden Mean"
  • On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • Ecclesiastes from the Old Testament
  • "The Sermon on the Mount" from the New Testament
  • The Medieval Morality Play Everyman

Among the "flash forwards" we will explore include:

  • "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King
  • Contemporary performance of Gospel at Colonus based on the Sophocles play
Instructor: Dr. Arthur Feinsod

If you have questions about this course, please email Dr. Feinsod.

Video: Dr. Feinsod Discusses His GH 201 Classes


Greg Bierly, Dean

Pickerl Hall 110
Indiana State University
812.237.3676 fax

Office Hours:
8:00 AM - 4:30 PM