Instructor: Daniel T. Beckman
Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThe goal of this course is for non-history and non-art majors to learn more about the figure, life, deeds, and importance of Alexander the Great. The course consists of weekly 3-hour long seminars, led by one (or two, depending on the number of students enrolled) student who presents a particular aspect of Alexandrian scholarship, preceded by readings for every seminar meeting. These vary from Roman to Arabic to Iranian to Medieval to Modern sources, images, and movies. It is necessary for every student to have read the 50-100 pages (may vary) per week in order to make sense of and participate in the weekly discussions. Moreover, every other week students have to submit a 1-2 page essay on a particular aspect of the sources (either a comparison or analysis) of their choice. These 5 short essays are worth 20% of the grade. Class participation accounts for 30% of the final grade. Every student will have led one of the 12 meetings and will be graded on their performance. They must meet before the class with the professor and talk about discussion questions and the sources. Moreover, they must be able to answer questions posed by their colleagues. This meeting will count to 25% of the final grade. Lastly, students will have to prepare a final paper of 10-15 pages due Dean's date, whose topic is agreed upon during a one-on-one meeting with the course instructor. It should present a further research, using primary and secondary sources or/and empirical evidence (coins, movies, magazines, etc.) There is a lot of freedom in choosing the topic of the essay, which will account for 25% of the final grade. This class includes a trip to the Numismatic collection of Firestone library, where students can learn more about the importance of Alexander's coins in western tradition.
Learning From Classroom InstructionClassroom instruction is a good way for students to refresh and deepen their knowledge of the readings for the particular week. It is a good idea for students to have read all of their sources attentively, so that they can both discuss their ideas with their fellow students and get ideas for the essays. There is no testing on facts or dates. Professor Beckman mostly leaves the discussions to the students and teaches only if he wants to provide some more substantial context for the sources or if the discussion goes off-topic.
Learning For and From AssignmentsEvery essay is a useful blueprint for learning how to properly write essays. These essays can become a basis for the final paper and thus should be written to the utmost of a student's ability. Professor Beckman provides feedback for every short essay with comments on the positive and negative aspects, which should be used to improve the paper into a final essay, if the student in question so desires.
External ResourcesThere are not many external resources, but they are not mostly required. Taking a course on Alexander or Hellenism would help with the contextual framework, but again, this course assumes students have no prior knowledge of Alexander the Great or work with primary sources. The readings are many and diverse, but accessible to the reader. Any questions can be answered either in-class or during professor Beckman's hours.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis course is a freshman seminar, which means that the application is completed during the summer. Students must write a short motivational letter if it is their first choice seminar.
Alexander the Great: Life and Legacy