Liberal Studies Abroad - Greece 2004

LBST 290/390; LBST 291/391; LBST 292/392

Course Outline

Following some preparatory sessions in Nanaimo, this course will be offered through intensive study during a four-week trip to Greece. After returning from Europe, students will complete projects and assignments under faculty supervision.

Each course may be taken at the second or third-year level, according to the pairings above. The performance demands for the upper-level courses are greater than those at the lower level.

The content of the programme course package will range over the art, architecture, history, literature, philosophy, and science of Classical Greece. Instruction will be primarily seminar-based, with lectures and other activities included. In Greece, there will be a number of visits to artistic, archaeological, and cultural sites in Greece: for example, to Athens, Epidaurus, and Delphi.

Preparatory Sessions�Nanaimo Campus

Saturday, April 24: 9am-4pm: Travel Abroad, Introductions, Course Requirements, Heroes and Gods

Tuesday, May 4: 9am-4pm: Art and Architecture, Writing


The professors assigned to this course are Norm Cameron and Matthew Beedham (Building 355, room 336, and Building 335 room 121), both of whom have taught Liberal Studies at VIU, and both of whom have taught Liberal Studies Abroad in Greece. Libby McGrattan will accompany the group as Field Manager.

Course Texts and Booklets

Aeschylus, The Oresteia Trilogy
Aristophanes, The Clouds
Aristotle, On Rhetoric
Boardman, John, Greek Art
Connolly, Peter and Hazel Dodge, The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens & Rome (excerpts)
Euripides, The Bacchae
Herodotus, The Histories (excerpts)
Homer, The Odyssey
Greek Phrasebook
Plato, The Symposium
Sappho, Sappho
Thucycidides, On Justice, Power, and Human Nature

Materials and Supplies

In preparation for the architecture assignment and the art project, please bring to Greece pencils, erasers, a small sketchpad, and any other materials you may wish to use for drawing (e.g. charcoal, pastel crayons).

Assignments and Evaluation

Assignments may be delivered by hand or submitted by mail to Libby McGrattan, Liberal Studies Department, Vancouver Island University, 900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo, B.C. V9R 5S5, Canada. The various due dates are specified below.


Participation in seminars and other activities counts for 25% of each of the courses you are taking. In assigning marks, the professors will give most emphasis to the quantity and quality of your participation in seminar discussion, but will also take into account your contributions to other activities, as well as to the educational experience of the group as a whole.


One of the "other activities" that is required of you is your participation in a symposium like that described in Plato's Symposium. Near the end of our stay in Spetses, tentatively the second-to-last evening, we will gather together and each student will deliver a speech, perhaps short, perhaps longer, but informed by the material in Aristotle's On Rhetoric, on a topic to be decided, but one of great importance and significance.


The journal counts for 20% in each of the courses you are taking. It is important to remember that the journal should not be a travelogue, but your response to the texts we are studying and the sites we are visiting. You might consider dividing your page into two uneven columns and writing only in one column at first, saving the second column for a later date when you return to the journal and comment on your original entry. The journal is due by June 18, 2004.

Course-Specific Assignments

LBST 290/390 Essay 1: 30% Architecture Project: 25%

LBST 291/391 Essay 2: 30% Art Project 25%

LBST 292/392 Essay 3: 30% Creative Writing Project: 25%

Projects are due by July 16, 2004; essays by August 13, 2004.

Upper-Level Students

The requirements for upper-level students are more demanding than those for lower-level students. Aside from a greater demand for quality, there are the following differences:

For the essays, lower-level students must write 1000 words, upper-level students 1500.

In addition, upper-level students will assist lower-level students by facilitating peer tutorials in Greece.

Assignment 1: Journal

During our visit in Greece, keep a daily journal of your experiences relating to the trip and the study we are engaged in. This submission will be marked primarily for content but also for presentation. The instructors will not make comments in the journal itself so that it may function as a permanent record of your visit and the feelings it evoked.

The focus, however, should be primarily on the intellectual and cultural components of your experiences, not on the personally private or simply touristic aspects. Of course these will become intertwined to quite a large extent, but you should endeavour to avoid mere relation of the activities of the day without any consideration of the broader, cultural issues they raise. Do try to articulate your own reactions, not merely gather mementos.

You are welcome to include material of all sorts: free-writing, literary and artistic criticism, drawing, painting, photographs, photo-collage, newspaper and magazine clippings, expository writing, transcriptions, ticket stubs, postcards - anything at all which expresses some aspect of your experience of the trip. If you use material from sources like magazines, there is no need to attribute it to a source, but it should be used to express or introduce your thoughts and reactions, not just those of its author.

Remember that a journal is not an essay (even though it may contain essay-like portions if you wish), and so does not need to be approached in the way you would an essay. Be creative and honest in expressing your feelings and thoughts: they do not have to be organized in any way in support of a point of view.

This assignment is worth 20% of your grade in each of the courses you are taking. It is due June 18, 2004.

Assignment 2: Essays

You must write one essay for each of the courses you are taking. For students in the second-year courses, each essay should be approximately 1000 words long; for those in the third-year courses, each essay should be about 1500 words long. The essays are due August 13, 2004, and each is worth 30% of your grade in the relevant course.

These essays should be examples of expository writing: that is, you must take a thesis, a point of view about a text or an issue it raises, and defend that point of view with reasoned argument. This requires you to justify your interpretations and evaluations of the text or material which forms your topic, to argue against alternative interpretations and judgements where these are likely to arise, and to speak with your own voice, not that of other critics.

They should not be primarily research essays, and definitely not mere summaries of the views of other critics. At the same time, it is legitimate to introduce the views of other writers if doing so would help illuminate your own point of view. When you do make such an appeal, you should always specify the source to which you are referring. Plagiarism, using outside sources without acknowledgement, will result in a mark of zero, and a failing grade for the course.

You can write your essays on any topic that you choose. It is hoped that the seminar discussions will lead you to a particular question that you would like to investigate. You can also combine different aspects of the course material, perhaps in the form of a comparison/contrast essay. You must, however, choose three distinctly different topics for your three essays. That is, you cannot write an essay on Plato and love and then another on Sappho and love, nor should you write one essay on Herodotus and one on Thucycdides. One of your papers can, however, tackle the Classical period at a more general level and in this essay you might refer to a text that you have covered in one of your essays. Start to think about your topics early and feel free to discuss their appropriateness with your professors.

* Exam option : If you choose, you can write a three-hour exam in lieu of one of the essays. The exam will be held either in Greece at the end of the trip, or in Nanaimo, shortly after our return. If you want to exercise this option please inform one of the professors, Matthew Beedham or Norm Cameron, by the end of the trip.

Assignment 3: Architecture Project (LBST 290/390 only)


Architecture may be defined as the art of arranging and manipulating space to fulfil a certain sort of function. Space is a relationship among things, not a thing itself; nor can it be reduced to a collection of things, or treated as a container in which things are collected. Because we focus on the things inside a space, we often fail to notice the space itself. Architecture, however, asks us to confront space, to experience it in a way that combines both attention to function and sensitivity to artistic expression.

Buildings, of course, are made to be used for living, working, learning and many other human activities. The function of a building is part of, and reveals, the building's subject-matter; but it does not exhaust it. Values other than functional values are expressed in architecture: it is inflected by the values of the architect's society and culture. Whether they adopt a critical or a reverential attitude towards their culture, architects must deal in one way or another with the public values of their society.

This assignment involves selecting one of the buildings you visit in Greece as a focus of study. There is a restriction on the time-period of the building: it should be either Classical or earlier. You will be asked to answer various questions about the building, based upon your interaction with it, and to provide graphic illustrations of some of its features. The illustrations may be in any medium: photography and sketching with pencil or charcoal are probably the easiest, and part of the assignment (B) calls specifically for a sketch. You should make sure you carry the necessary supplies with you on the visit.

The assignment may be completed after returning to Canada, based upon the notes and illustrations you make on-site. It is due on July 16, 2004, and is worth 25% of the grade for LBST 290/390.


A. Carefully observe the building or structure from the outside. Keeping in mind the fact that architecture articulates social values, answer the following:

1. What is/was the building's function? Is it possible to discern the function from the building's exterior? If so, on the basis of what features?

2. What cultural or social values are projected by the exterior of the building?

3. What are the materials of which the building is made? Why do you think they were chosen? How do they articulate the building's subject-matter?

4. During what historical period was the building constructed? Does it hark back to earlier times?

5. What kind of presence does the building have? How does it relate to the surrounding space: does it dominate, meld in, contrast?

6. How do you respond to the building, and why?

B. Make a sketch of the building's exterior. Don't worry about getting all of the details, or in getting them perfectly "right". Reduce the exterior view to its geometrical components: rectangles, squares, circles, semicircles, triangles.

C. Make a sketch or photograph of an interesting detail of the exterior: a door-handle, window-­frame, panel, cornerstone, statue or whatever.

D. If possible , enter the building and spend some time sitting in it and walking around the interior space. Answer the following:

1. Do you find the entrance inviting?

2. How is the inner space organized? Is there a single focal point, or many? If so, what is it/are they? How do the focal points relate to the function of the building?

3. Is the inner space unified or disjointed? Does it harmonize or contrast with the exterior?

4. What materials are used inside the building, and to what effect?

5. How does the inner space make you feel? What elements inside are the most striking?

E. If possible, make a sketch or photograph of an interior element or detail, and explain the purpose it serves in the building as a whole. What, if any, values does it communicate to you?

F. General questions:

1. Is the building beautiful? Does it matter?

2. Is the building well designed? Does it matter?

3. What cultural, social and/or religious values are projected by the building?

4. If architecture is a language, what language does this building speak?

Assignment 4: Art Project (LBST 291/391 only)

Reimagining the Classical World: A Conversation with History

This Art Project asks you to create an original piece in some art-form, as follows:

1. Select the art object which you have found to be the most interesting, valuable, beautiful, striking, intriguing of those things that you have encountered during the program.

2. Document the work, in any appropriate form: photographic, drawn, written, collage, advertisements/pictures in magazines/postcards, etc. In your documentation you must identify the work: what is it? whom created it? when was it made? of what is it made? what purpose/ meaning did it historically have? what contemporary relevance, if any, does it have? why have you chosen it?

3. Respond to the work. This response may take any form: it may be (but is not limited to) a reproduction of the work in your own visual vocabulary or it may be a re-imagining, deconstruction, critique, celebration, inquiry into, or interrogation of the work. The piece may take any appropriate form: two-dimensional, three-dimensional or some combination thereof; painting, sculpture, mixed media, collage; found objects or attachments, assemblage; large, medium or small; mobile or stationary. It may be made from anything you think works to convey your ideas.

4. Title your piece.

5. Explain your piece. Include a typewritten account of the project that answers the following questions: How does it fulfil the task assigned? Why has it been created in this particular way?

6. Deliver your piece, including the account and other documentation described above, to Libby McGrattan in the Liberal Studies Department at Vancouver Island University by July 16, 2004.

This Art Project is worth 25% of your grade in LBST 291/391.

Do not be concerned if you feel that you lack artistic talent: first, you are probably wrong about this, and perhaps have all sorts of talents which you have not yet tapped; second, the range of media and techniques is very wide, so that you should be able to find some form of expression which you are able to manipulate freely; third, what are most important are the ideas you express through your piece.

Assignment 5: Writing Project (LBST 292/392 only)

The task for this assignment is to write a short story, a poem, a dialogue, or writing in some other genre or mixture of genres (make it around 800-1000 words) that explores the theme of viewing the past through the eyes of the present. The writing may be entirely fictional, based partly on fact, purely autobiographical or any combination of these. Its content must be related in some way to the content of the courses, but may also extend more widely.

As we shall probably discover as the program progresses, when we try to relate the events of an historical period, or of our own earlier lives, it is impossible to avoid bringing in contemporary perspectives in the attempt to understand what has happened. This fact may lead to a distortion of the past events, but it need not do so: whether the lens of the present is essentially a distorting lens is one of the many issues comprehended under this general theme.

A second issue is that of how the past can help us to understand the present, whether by providing us with an historical precedent for some problem we are facing, or by helping us to understand the historical roots of an issue or to see it as no longer relevant to the modern age. This kind of factor is germane to the assignment because our own contemporary ways of viewing the past might themselves be historically rooted, so that when we turn them on the past they turn back upon themselves.

An example of the kind of dynamic interaction of past and present which can lend a distinctive flavour to a piece of creative writing is in the selection of language. If I am remembering, for instance, the events of my early childhood, the child in me recounts those events and expresses his reactions in the simple version of the English language I/he then spoke. The adult who is writing about them now, however, has learned an entirely richer language for describing the world, including those past events and feelings. Autobiographical writing can achieve interesting and poignant effects by juxtaposing the two sensibilities, of the child and the adult, through the use of the two different kinds of language. Similar effects can be achieved in historical writing by distinguishing the language of the narrator from that of the people described in the narrative.

Expanding on the theme for the assignment in the above way is not intended to set rigid constraints on what you can do, but merely to give you some idea of what is meant by "explore the theme of viewing the past through the eyes of the present." You may certainly come up with your own idea of what this theme means, and of how you want to construct your piece of writing so that it qualifies. If you are in any doubt about whether what you propose to do satisfies the conditions of the assignment, please discuss the matter with the instructors before starting.

This assignment will be worth 25% towards your grade in the relevant course. When complete it should be delivered or mailed to Libby McGrattan at Vancouver Island University along with the other assignments, to arrive by July 16, 2004.

Reading Schedule

For May 4, Connolly et al, The Ancient City; Boardman, Greek Art (ch. 1)

May 12 Homer, The Odyssey

May 13 Herodotus, The Histories (excerpts)

May 14 Aeschylus, The Oresteia Trilogy

May 15 Boardman, Greek Art (ch. 2-3)

May 18 Sappho, Sappho and Plato, The Symposium

May 19 Plato, The Symposium, and Aristophanes, The Clouds

May 20 Boardman, Greek Art (ch. 4-5)

May 25 Thucycidides, On Justice, Power, and Human Nature

May 26 Aristotle, On Rhetoric

May 27 Euripides, The Bacchae

May 28 Boardman, Greek Art (ch. 6-7)


While we naturally expect you all to have lots of fun in Greece, we ask you to note that the standards of evaluation in these courses will be the same as for all Liberal Studies courses. You will be expected to keep up with the reading list, heavy as it is, participate fully in seminar, produce thoughtful papers and projects, and hand in your work on time. We recommend that you set aside a definite period of time each day for your reading and for making notes for the assignments you will complete on your return.

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