School of Athen by Raphael

LBST 310/210

Modern Culture's Ancient Sources

(The Greek, Roman, and Biblical Worlds)

Course Outline - Fall 2012

Welcome to the Liberal Studies program. This outline will tell you most of the basic things you need to know in order to get started. Please read it carefully. If you have any questions, please consult your seminar leader.

Course Description

Critical exploration of influential ideas in art, literature, philosophy, science and religion from the Hebrew classical Greek and Roman periods. Through seminar discussion of key works by classical thinkers, students investigate the understandings of justice, human nature, war, love, sexuality, faith, rationality etc. that have informed 2500 years of Western culture.

This outline pertains to both LBST 310 and LBST 210. The two courses share the same reading list and lecture timetable. The performance demands for the upper-level courses are greater than those at the lower level.

LBST 310 is offered in both Nanaimo and in Courtenay (through a partnership agreement with North Island College) and, through internet technology, on the VIU campuses in Duncan and Powell River. When specific instructions apply to only one group or the other, these will be noted in the syllabus.

Things To Do Immediately

Before Tuesday September 4, 2012:

  • Read the Books of Genesis and Job from the Old Testament of the Bible (any version).
  • Prepare your seminar note as explained under "Assignments" below, and hand it in at your seminar on September 11th (Nanaimo) or Sept 13th (Courtenay, Powell River, Cowichan).
  • During the week of September 18th we will be reading and discussing the epic poem The Odyssey, by Homer. It is a long poem. We advise you to begin reading it early so as to be prepared to discuss it with your seminar companions.

Orientation Week

The first week of the semester (September 4-6) is Orientation Week. During this week, the normal lectures and seminars will be combined with essential orientation and community-building activities.

The first week will involve getting to know the other participants in your seminar, as well as much more detail about the running of the program and the ways in which your performance will be evaluated. It will also focus on seminar discussion skills.






Office Hours

David Livingstone




Tuesdays 1:30 pm - 2:30 PM

Wednesdays 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Maureen Okun




Mondays 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Tuesdays 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm


Weekly Timetable  

There are several sections of LBST 210 and 310. They meet in different places and at different times. Find the section you are registered in on the following table and read across for the corresponding meeting times and locations.

LBST 210 F12N01 (Nanaimo)




10:30 am - 12:30 pm Nanaimo Campus, Building 355, room 203



6:30 pm - 9:30 pm Nanaimo Campus, Building 305 (Library), room 27

LBST 210 F12D01



Online Details to follow



6:30 - 9:30 pm Cowichan Campus D 700 135

LBST 210 F12R01

(Powell River)



Details to follow



6:30 - 9:30 pm tiwšɛmawtxʷ Campus (Powell River)

R 610 152




LBST 310 F12N01




10:30 am - 12:30 pm Nanaimo Campus

B-355, rm 203


Tuesdays and Thursdays

1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Nanaimo Campus,

Building 355, room 108

LBST 310 F12D01




Details to follow



6:30 - 9:30 pm Cowichan Campus D 700 135

LBST 310 F12R01

(Powell River)



Details to follow



6:30 - 9:30 pm tiwšɛmawtxʷ Campus (Powell River)

R 610 152


Lectures and Seminars

The lectures are held on Tuesday mornings, and they serve several purposes: to initiate discussion and debate around issues raised by the texts; to provide occasional background information that will make reading and discussing the texts easier; and, occasionally, to show how issues arising from the text are connected to issues in the modern world or to issues arising out of texts we have looked at before. For distance students only (Courtenay, Powell River, Cowichan) lectures will be delivered online (details to follow).

Seminars provide you with the opportunity to develop, deepen and consider alternatives to your own interpretations of the texts. Active engagement is the key to successful learning, and seminars are an important venue for engagement. See the detailed explanation under "Seminar Participation" below.


Please note: because of the essential participatory nature of Liberal Studies courses, it is Department policy that attendance is required at all lectures and seminars. Failure to attend regularly will have a significant negative impact on your mark for participation.


The following list indicates the required reading. It is important that you do some of the reading before the course begins: we recommend at least the first three titles below. It is also important that, with the exception of the Bible, you endeavour to obtain the exact editions specified. This is largely because translations differ in significant ways, but is also for ease of reference during seminars and in written work. In some cases the Bookstore may have been unable to obtain the edition specified; in those cases you may buy the edition that the Bookstore has marked for this course.

•  The Bible: any edition will do.

•  Homer: The Odyssey , trans. Fagles, (Penguin Classics).

•  Thucydides: On Justice, Power and Human Nature , trans. Woodruff (Hackett).

•  Plato: The Republic , trans. Bloom (Basic Books).

•  Sappho, Sappho: a New Translation, trans. Barnard (Univ. of California Press).

•  Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy: Revised Edition trans. Victor Watts (Penguin).

The following works will be included in a custom course work packet available on the Desire2Learn Web site (an online source). We recommend that you print this packet and bring it those classes when we will be discussing those readings:

•  Sophocles: Oedipus The King , and Antigone trans. Johnston.

•  Aristophanes: The Clouds , trans. Johnston.

•  Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics , trans. Jowett (selections).

•  Greek and Roman Art and Architecture (selected readings).

With the following exceptions, we will read the above books in their entirety:

•  The Bible: Genesis, Job.

•  Thucydides: pp. 1-16, 39-58, 66-76, 89-95, 102-123 and 141-154.


The Broadview Guide to Writing -- fourth edition , by Doug Babington, Maureen Okun, Don LePan (Broadview Press, 2009).

Web Resources

There are a number of valuable and helpful web resources for your use in LBST 310:

1) The Liberal Studies Home-page: this departmental page contains a vast amount of information about the theory and practice of Liberal Studies courses, and all the links you will need to other resources. Please explore it at your leisure.

2) VIU is instituting a new learning management software system called "Desire2Learn." You can access your Liberal Studies courses by navigating your internet browser to Once you are there, log in using your "Discovery" id and password (the same ones you would use to access your student record). Once you are into the system, you should see LBST 310 and/or LBST 210 as one of the courses you can access. Click on the links and you should see the course content displayed week-by-week. This is a new system and we may not have all of the kinks worked out by the first semester, so please be patient. There is an online help button. Go there first and try to answer any technical questions you have before you contact us about them. Since we are Liberal Studies professors and not IT specialists, even if you do contact us, we may not have the answer. In which case, you may need to contact the VIU IT Help desk.


In marking assignments, faculty will use letter grades. The following scale [identical in all VIU classes] will be used to assess the final grade for the class:

Percentage (%)

Letter Grade

Grade Point




































Your work during the semester will be divided into two categories: (i) ungraded, and (ii) graded. Upper-level students will be expected to display greater depth and quality in all components of evaluation.

Ungraded work will receive feedback, and an estimated mark. Such marks will not count towards your semester grade, but failure to complete the work would have an indirect negative effect on your final grade, as explained below. The purpose of ungraded work is to allow you time to develop the skills important to success in the program without feeling that you are falling behind with every non-perfect performance. The more effort you put into your ungraded work, of course, the more successful you will be on your graded work. Ungraded work will consist in writing a first draft of each of the two essays.

Note : failure to attend seminars or lectures will naturally affect your participation grade; failure to write drafts of the two essays and pass them through the rewrite process will mean that your seminar leader will not be required to give feedback on the second draft.

Graded work will count towards your semester grade, and will consist of the following: 

Seminar Participation 


Seminar Notes


Essay #1


Essay #2


Op/ed (editorial assignment)


Final Exam


Details on both graded and ungraded work requirements follow in the sections below.

Ungraded Work

Essay Drafts: Each of the two essays will focus closely upon one of the readings to be discussed in the seminar. There is a procedure to follow:

* Select material to write on: at the first or second seminar, choose two of the weekly readings on which you would like to write. You are required to choose one reading assigned for a seminar before the mid-term Study Week, and one assigned for a seminar after it.

* Choose a question: these will be provided before the essay is due.

* First draft: write the essay and hand it in at the Thursday (Courtenay, Duncan, Powell River) or Tuesday (Nanaimo) seminar during the week in which the reading you are writing about is discussed. Your seminar-leader will return it to you with comments and a provisional mark, normally a week later.

For LBST 210 students, these essays should be approximately 1000 words long. For LBST 310 students, these essays should be 1250-1500 words long; they are not to be research papers but thoughtful responses to particular topics in the core reading. The essay must consist of a convincing argument for a thesis that captures a valid and well supported point of view and constitutes an answer to the question selected. No outside reading is required before you write the essay.

Graded Work

Seminar Notes: At the start of the first seminar of the week (or for Courtenay, Duncan, Powell River the Thursday seminar), you must hand in some notes (200-300 words) on the text (or one of the texts) under discussion for that week. The main purpose of these seminar notes is to encourage students to engage in critical reflection on the text under discussion and to have at least one thoughtful contribution to offer to the seminar.

Although it must be written in complete sentences, the note is not an essay; it need not have a thesis statement, conventionally designed paragraphs, and so on. The notes must be typed on 8 ½ x 11 paper and double spaced. Unlike polished essays, seminar notes can be speculative and can take intellectual risks. The best seminar notes focus on a single aspect of a work rather than making generalizations about its entirety. Choose a feature that engages or puzzles you, and explore its possibilities.

However, there are some important guidelines to follow: a) the notes should ask a question about some significant point with respect to the text, a question that takes one into the text rather than away from it, which addresses interpretative issues rather than matters of fact or context which cannot be answered solely by reading the text; b) avoid making a list of many points, and stay firmly focused on one; c) avoid a mere summary or description of the text; and d) don't make each note simply a personal response (e.g., an indication of whether you liked or didn't like the work). In marking the notes, which in all are worth 10% of your grade for the course, the instructors will be looking for evidence of engagement with the text, as well as attentive reading and thoughtful consideration. You may find, also, that your note can suggest an interesting topic for the rest of the class to explore in seminar discussion.

Each note will be given a pass or fail grade and returned to the student.

You do not have to hand in any seminar notes during those weeks when you are preparing to hand in an essay on the work under discussion in the seminars. However, you may at your discretion write seminar notes for these weeks, in which case your mark will be based on the best nine notes submitted.

Seminar Participation: Participation is a critical part of this program, and the skills of intellectual discussion among the most important it endeavours to foster. Some of the criteria for good performance in a seminar are explained in the Advice on Seminar Participation ; this should be read before the first seminar. Some important aspects of your seminar participation are the quality and quantity of your contributions to discussion, your helpfulness to others in maintaining a successful conversation within the seminar, and your ability to listen as well as to talk.

The seminar experience is absolutely central to what Liberal Studies is trying to achieve, and we are very concerned to see that students all contribute effectively, especially those who may still find themselves somewhat reluctant to speak up in a group discussion. Any student who continues to find this a problem should discuss the matter thoroughly with the seminar leader, so that together they can work out some ways of resolving the difficulties. To help you become a good seminar participant you may be asked to complete a short self-evaluation approximately halfway through the course.

The following scale gives a guide to the factors the seminar leader will consider in evaluating seminar participation, as well as a rough picture of their impact on your mark:

  • F: is physically absent without a valid reason;
  • D: has written a seminar note and is physically present, but otherwise quite absent;
  • C-: provides some potentially useful participation, but is very poorly prepared or insensitive or uncooperative in the group setting;
  • C: is present, evidently prepared and interested, but offers quite limited verbal contributions to the discussion;
  • C+ to B-: is present, well prepared, and offers some useful comments (which might be more incisive or more relevant or further developed);
  • B to B+: is present, very well prepared, maintains a good relationship with the others (i.e., contributes actively to the dynamics of the seminar), and offers useful comments in a constructive way;
  • A range: makes a major contribution and not just to the understanding of the material but to the social dynamics of the session, a contribution which would be difficult to imagine being any better.

Two Essays (Second Drafts): One week after you receive a provisional grade on an essay (see "ungraded work" above), you will hand in the final draft, along with your provisionally marked first draft . The second draft of your essay will then be given the final mark. You will engage in this process twice in the semester (again, see "ungraded work" above).

Op/Ed (editorial assignment) : One of the purposes of the Liberal Studies program is to develop critical thinking, which we define as thinking creatively and critically, addressing complex issues precisely and cogently, and speaking and writing clearly and effectively. Liberal Studies also situates you in a conversation about the perennial questions for human beings, a conversation that is pitched at a high level, avoids clichés, and is enriched by the thoughts of intelligent people from the past and the present. In this exercise, you will bring these elements together by addressing a contemporary topic in the form of a well-crafted persuasive argument similar to what might appear in an editorial in a serious newspaper.

It's a good idea to read several op/eds from different newspapers in order to get a sense of the style used. You should do this at least a few weeks before beginning writing your own op/ed.

Your article should present a cogent, concise, balanced, and insightful argument in no more than 750 words; to deliver a persuasive argument in so few words, it will need to be tightly focused and precise. Write as though you were submitting it to a national newspaper for publication (maybe you will).

The best editorialists approach their subject with a good, general knowledge (a Liberal Studies education!). Your piece must connect to the themes and ideas discussed in Liberal Studies 310/210, or to a work we have studied, as a way of anchoring your discussion; however, your article must appeal to a wide audience composed of many who are not familiar with the works and authors we have studied.

Final Exam : This examination will occur after classes are finished. Students will have the opportunity to answer questions that assume a careful reading of all course materials and close attention to lectures.

General Writing Requirements

Word-Processing: All written work should be typed or printed at font size 12, double spaced on standard paper (8.5" x 11"). For essays, the first page should clearly identify the writer, course, instructor name, assignment title, question answered (if applicable), and date submitted.

Plagiarism: You should be familiar with the policy on academic misconduct outlined in the Vancouver Island University Calendar and take care to avoid such practices. Plagiarism consists in passing off the work or ideas of others as your own. It ranges from word-for-word copying from other sources to summarizing their content in one's own words, when this is done without acknowledgement. When you do borrow from other people, you must indicate the source to the fullest extent possible. Otherwise, you will incur severe penalties for intellectual dishonesty: a plagiarised paper will normally receive a mark of zero, and the student will not have an opportunity to make up the assignment. A report of the offense will be filed with the Dean and placed on the student's permanent academic file. A second occurrence will result in a mark of F for the course, and further disciplinary action may be taken by the VIU authorities.

Appropriate Language: Wherever appropriate, students should follow good contemporary practice and use gender-free language in their writing and speech. (Where absurd, such practice should be avoided: e.g. "Aristotle expresses his or her views about friendship in Books 8 and 9 of the Nicomachean Ethics .")

Photocopying: You should always retain a photocopy of any written assignment you hand in. This will insure against loss and enable you to ask for a mark review if this is necessary. Photocopy services are available in the Library.

Schedule of Topics

Week of (Tues)

Tuesday Lecture (Lecturer's name is given in brackets)


Sep 4

Orientation Welcome to LBST 310/210


Sep 11

Genesis & Job (Okun and Livingstone)


Sep 18

Homer: Odyssey (Okun)


Sep 25

Thucydides (see selections, above) (Livingstone)


Oct 2

Sophocles, "Oedipus the King," and "Antigone" (Okun)


Oct 9

Aristophanes, The Clouds /Sappho (Livingstone/Okun)


Oct 16

STUDY WEEK (no LBST classes. Note: all other VIU classes are in session)


Oct 23

Plato: Republic (books 1-3) (Livingstone)


Oct 30

Plato: Republic (books 4-6) (Livingstone)


Nov 6

Plato: Republic (books 7 ? 10) (TBA)


Nov 13

Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics (Livingstone/TBA)


Nov 20

Boethius: Consolation of Philosophy (Okun)

Consolation of Philosophy

Nov 27

Greek Art and Architecture (Livingstone)

Greek Art and Architecture