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CLC 1020


People in modern-day Canada often think – mistakenly – that only the most recent past has relevance to their lives. CLC 1020 proposes the very opposite.

This course argues, instead, that a person cannot understand why he or she thinks any particular way, nor why he or she does the things s/he does,  unless that person has an understanding of the forces that have shaped the culture in which s/he lives. The simple fact that a student nearing 20 years old finds him or herself in a university is the product of a long evolution that began with the first European universities in the 13th century. The things we think and feel most earnestly are the products of attitudes and ideas that have developed over long periods of time. Even something as seemingly self-evident as the notion that falling deeply in love is a major life experience is the product of ideological shifts that took place in 12th-century Western Europe. Before that period, Europeans, like many non-European cultures to this day, did not believe that marriage should be predicated on being in love.

In short, we cannot know ourselves unless we understand the cultural forces that have shaped us. In CLC 1020 we follow the evolution of Western culture as it defines and redefines itself, shapes and reshapes itself, sometimes through smooth development and sometimes through sudden lurches. Since our focus is on culture, broadly conceived, we grapple with history, literature, music, the visual arts, architecture, philosophy, and politics as we cover three thousand years of human cultural activity.

The team for this course is comprised of the professor, a cadre of energetic teaching assistants, and the students. All contribute to the experience. Because it is too large a class for discussions during the two lecture hours per week, students have a small-group tutorial for the third hour during which they can hammer out their individual approaches and interpretations of the material.