English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities - Baroque & Enlightenment

Lyman Baker, Instructor

Reading List #1


Constructing the traditional Christian picture of history

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Our course is concerned with crises in authority within the early modern period - roughly the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries in Europe. But in order to appreciate what makes this era "early modern," we have to have a basic understanding of the intellectual framework it challenged.

These readings, and the accompanying class discussions, are designed to put you on a footing for doing well in the out-of-class essay assignment for Exam #1, to which you will find a link on the general page on Examinations.  And at least one of the questions you will encounter on the in-class portion of Exam #1 will require you to call on the material listed here. The general page on Examinations also provides a link to the Prep Sheet for this portion of the exam.  Accordingly, it would make sense to study these readings with the requirements of those topic options in mind.

Of the readings on this list, all but #1 (which you can round up on your own, but can also acquire from the Web) and #s 9, 10, & 11 (which are to be found only on the Web) are in our background text, The Western Humanities (3rd Edition). (For those of you who retain the 2nd Edition of this text from a previous course, I have provided page references as well.)  As you work your way through the readings in WH, make it your aim to imagine which of these events would be likely to take on special meaning from the perspective of the traditional Christian theory of the nature of history. Specifically, where would a traditional Christian mentality be likely to see the effects of Original Sin at work? What occurrences would invite being seen as the effects of the hand of God? What would be the kind of interpretation that would be resorted to in order to make sense of the happening in question in terms of Divine Providence, His Plan for the creation (the reason for being of history in the first place)?  Can you imagine more than one sort of divine motive at work behind some of these?

(1) the Biblical story of the Creation of the World and of the Fall of Man. Get hold of any translation of the Old Testament and study the opening of the Book of Genesis, up through the story of Cain and Abel.  Or print off a copy of the influential Authorized Version of 1611 commissioned by King James I of England.

(2) the history of Judaism from its beginnings around 2000 BC to the Roman defeat of the Masada Rebellion in 73 AD: WH 3:133-140; 2:135-143.

(3) the development of early Christianity: WH 3:143-148; 2:147-152 (up to the section on early Christian art), 156-157.

(4) the early medieval West: WH 3:198-200, 205; 2:198-201, 206.

(5) Feudalism; the secular & papal monarchies during the High Middle Ages; Medieval Christianity and the Church, Learning and Theology: WH, 3:207-220; 2:209-222, 240-241.

(6) the Black Death; the secular monarchies and the papal monarchy in the late middle ages; religion, theology, philosophy and science during that period: WH, 3:241-249; 2:243-251,271.

(7) The Early Renaissance:  Florence, Italian Humanism, philosophy in the early Renaissance: WH, 3:273-281, 297; 2:273-281, 297.

(8) The High Renaissance:  Rise of the modern sovereign state; economic expansion & social developments in the High Renaissance (1494-1564): WH, 3:299-304, 327; 2:299-305, 326.

(9) The systematic synthesis of the results of our explication of Genesis 1-3 (that is, of the explication we did of Reading #1, above).

(10) "The Common Ground:  the traditional Christian picture of history."

(11) "Justification in traditional Christianity."  Here we encounter an important division within medieval Christian theology -- between the Augustinian and Thomistic conceptions of God's plan for enabling post-Crucifixion humanity to avail themselves of the Atonement.  (That is, it is a disagreement about how God's Providence works in history to accomplish the purpose of creation -- i.e., the "end" of history [in both the temporal and teleological senses of the term "end"].)  In many ways, it makes sense to regard Luther and Calvin as going back to Augustine's reading of the meaning of the Crucifixion, in opposition to that which evolved in the course of the European Middle Ages.  It has been maintained that, if Augustine had died at the end of the first third of the 16th century (instead of at the end of the first third of the 5th century), and if he had insisted on the ideas that he so vigorously maintained in his last 3 decades, the Church would have declared him a heretic rather than a saint.  The question then arises:  what then is peculiar about the Protestant Reformation?

And finally

(12) The Religious Reformations and Northern Humanism: WH, 3:329-338, 350; 2:329-339, 351. The material on Luther and Calvin you will of course want to re-study in connection with the readings to which you are directed in Reading List #2, as pointed to in the Course Schedule. Here of course we start looking at a major parting of the ways within the Christian world view. But we should not even during this period lose sight ourselves of the common framework of assumptions within which this separation takes place. Later in the course, we shall see how elements of this framework still shared in common begin themselves to come under stress and even outright attack.

(13) There is a convenient Introduction to the Reformation on a web site offering advanced placement courses in history to students at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland.  You should print off a copy and for consultation from time to time.  (The "objectives" and "assignments" parts of this page are not ours, but when you print off the page with the "Introduction," they will appear at the end.  You might want to look at what the instructor of that course designed as the oral examination on the Reformation, as part of the final.  It's quite impressive!  It outlines an ambitious agenda of curiosity that would be appropriate for a college level course devoted entirely to the Reformation.)  There are, incidentally, other pages on this site that you might want to visit in the course of our course.

(14) You should also work your way through the picture of the Reformation offered by the Catholic Encyclopedia.  The 1913 Edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia has for some years now been in the process of being formatted for Web access.  Its point of view conforms to the doctrinal point of view of the Council of Trent, that is to say, the Catholic orthodoxy formulated as part of the 16th-century Counter-Reformation.  The article in other words is, like Luther's and Calvin's works, quite partisan.  As such it is invaluable for our purposes in affording a comprehensive picture of how the Reformation looked from the standpoint of those Christians who rejected it.  (Some of you may want to consult the brief account (1917) of the history of the 1913 Edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia.  Many of the volunteers working on the project to put this edition on the Web consider it superior to later editions, like that of 1974, which in any case are bound by copyright restriction.)

An important distinction: there is a difference between "the history of Christianity" and "the Christian picture of history." Our concern here is with the latter. 

The above-cited sections of The Western Humanities were written to give you a sketch of the history of Christianity. But our purpose here is different. As you read this material, analyze it in such a way as to extract the basic elements that eventually result, by (say) 1521, in a comprehensive, coherent picture of the nature and shape of universal history, beginning with the divine creation. These elements you will want to collect in a special place in your reading notes. Ultimately you will want to rearrange these elements into an organized overall picture.

Meanwhile, we will be approaching the same goal from a different angle in the classroom sessions in the course. In other words, the explication of Genesis worked through in class and the follow-up systematic synthesis of its results (Reading Assignment #9, above) should converge with your re-organized reading notes in a common picture.  Check it against "  The Common Ground:  the traditional Christian picture of history."

  Return to the Master List of Reading Lists.

  Forward to Reading List #2.

  Go to the Home Page of the course.

  Suggestions are welcome.  Please send your comments to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 1997 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

      This page last updated 15 October 1997.