European Humanities 
Mr. Spragins

Course Website: 

Students who take this humanities option will study a survey of the history of ideas from the Ancient Greek World to the mid-Twentieth Century. The major periods that we will cover are the Greek World, the Roman World, the Medieval World, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, The Romantic Era, and finally the Modern World. We will focus on the commanding ideas typical to thinkers of each period: their conception of human nature, the relationship between the individual and society, and the connection between man and the natural world. We will study how a culture’s literature, art, and music reflect the period's zeitgeist. Our central goal will be to define the moral, political and philosophical principles that uphold civil society today.

Students taking this Humanities course will satisfy their History, English, Art and Music requirements. The course will meet every day of the ten-day cycle. The course will meet in a technology-enhanced room where we can make full use of the computer’s multimedia capabilities and exploit internet research opportunities. 

First Semester Topics and Texts:  

September: Western Ancient History in Twenty Minutes: The Age of Mythology 
September: Homer: Essay on Odysseus vs. Achilles
October: The Greek Ideal Project
October: Roman World Project
October: The Middle Ages in Europe: Beowulf, part one
November: Early Renaissance: The Prologue from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
November: High Renaissance Art and Architecture; Shakespeare’s The Tempest
Thanksgiving Break
December: Shakespeare’s Macbeth
January: The Enlightenment; Voltaire's Candide

Midyear Exam (20% of Semester Grade) 

Second Semester Topics and Texts:

January: The French Revolution

February: Romantic Poetry: Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats

February: The Industrial Revolution

March: Russian Short Stories

March: Josef Conrad, Heart of Darkness

April: World War One Poetry

April: Modernism: Art, Poetry and Music

May: Artifacts Essay

May: The Origins of World War II
May: Lorca, La Casa de Bernarda Alba

May: Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

Final Exam (20% of Semester Grade)


Course Goals for the First Semester

Our primary task in the first semester will be to write essays on the major texts. These papers will feature original theses informed by class discussions, homework assignments, and revision. At the beginning of the semester the student will write an essay which describes his particular writing goals for the semester (such as improved thesis statements, better organization of arguments, and clearer expression of ideas).  The students will collect documents from drafts of their papers into an electronic portfolio to demonstrate the progress that they have made toward the achievement of their writing goals. 

We hope to produce well-organized essays that persuasively prove their thesis statements by referring to specific characters, moments, and quotations from the texts. The final drafts of these essays will be free of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors. The essays will be written in elegant and rhetorically effective prose. To accomplish these writing goals, the class will make extensive use of Gilman’s resources for writing: the Fenimore Library, the Writing Center, and our high tech classroom which features a computer for each student!

Classes will be driven by student ideas. Students will generate their own thesis statements for major papers. Emphasis will be placed on the variety of legitimate responses that can be made to a text rather than any one correct path to understanding.

Students will lead class discussions and participate in a variety of group activities. They will deliver presentations together and give speeches. The students will also stage their own interpretations of scenes from Macbeth during a Shakespeare Festival in early December.

There will be regular quizzes and tests on reading comprehension, vocabulary, and grammar. Students will also be evaluated for their class participation, preparation and general enthusiasm for the course.  

Late Paper Policy: Extensions will be granted for legitimate reasons, i.e. sickness, academic crunches, and the like. However, no extensions will be granted on the day that a paper is due. Papers are docked in grade five points for each day that they are late (including weekends.)

Civil Behavior in the Classroom

Vital to the success of our class this year will be basic civility.  To the very best of our ability, we must keep the tone of the class up-beat and enthusiastic. We must be tolerant of differences and patient with each other. Without trust, people will be less willing to take chances, to participate in discussions, and to work cooperatively on group projects. It will be my responsibility to set the tone and to model appropriate behavior.

No verbal abuse will be tolerated. Just as important is avoiding non-verbal comments about each other and the class, such as slouching in chairs, appearing to be deathly bored, staring out the window, sleeping, rolling one’s eyes at people’s comments, snickering, snorting, etc. etc. etc. Just be polite!

Businesslike decorum is required in dress. Our classroom is a place of business, not a social center. Appropriate dress reflects an appropriate attitude. So, tuck your shirts in before you come to class!

Repeated lateness to class will not be tolerated! If it happens more than once, you will need to get a late pass from Ms. Turner or Mr. Schmick to return to class.

Extra Help

 It is easiest to reach me by email. My email address is My office phone number is (410) 323-3800 ext 252. Students and parents can also call me at home before 10:00 p.m. at (443) 608-8068..

Portfolio Project