Summer Syllabus

This course explores the themes of freedom and citizenship in ancient, early-modern, and contemporary political thought. The three-week seminar dedicates one week each to ancient Greek texts, 17th- and 18th-century texts in the Anglo-American political tradition (including American national founding documents), and 20th-century texts that bring the issues of earlier works into a contemporary American context. The texts are a mixture of literary, philosophical, and political documents. The overarching aim of the course is to equip students with critical tools with which to evaluate and participate in contemporary civic life. The attention to the theme of citizenship, in particular, aims to stimulate in students a consciousness of themselves as political agents in a democratic society.

Weekly Readings


Students are responsible for reading the assigned text each day. Reading assignments average about twenty pages per day and are completed during reading sessions in the afternoon. Because the texts are often complex and unfamiliar, the reading typically takes students two to three hours to complete.

Each evening students turn in a one-paragraph essay responding to the night's readings. Students typically spend two hours writing and revising their written responses with help from their teaching assistants.

At the end of the course students write a three-page paper reflecting on the course as a whole. Teaching Assistants help students devise thesis statements, plan their outlines, and write papers bringing together works from multiple weeks.