The assignments and course materials below represent Core Books' pedagogical approach for incorporating these texts into curricula. They are meant to create points of access and to engage students in a meaningful discussion of the works' humanistic themes. These assignments are also meant to align with the course objectives in which the texts are used; they all work to strengthen students' reading and writing skills.
- The Good Citizen
- Virtue or Goodness
- Revolution/Radicalism vs. Conformity
- Founding Documents
- Rhetorical Persuasion
- Much of Machiavelli’s discussion of The Prince is dedicated to teaching politicians how to gain and retain power. What is power? Give your own, 1-sentence definition of the term. Who or what has power over your life? Who or what do you have power over?
- One of the most famous quotations from the text is the question, “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or the reverse” (pg. 54)?
- Before reading Machiavelli’s answer, make your own argument for whether it is better to be loved or feared? Is it better to be loved in some cases and feared in others?
- After reading the text summarize Machiavelli’s answer to this question.
- SEARCH FOR IDENTITY—a QUEST
- Blindness (the misinterpretation of self and others due to selfishness) and sight
- The relationship between individual success and responsibility to community: success vs. “selling out”
- Masculinity and manhood. The novel is dedicated to “Daddy” and if you look at the Foreword, you will see that although Toni Morrison usually writes about women’s lives, she was inspired to write this novel after her father died—she wanted to reflect on the lives of African-American men
- Freedom from bondage—symbolic images of flying/flight as escape, freedom, and transcendence (rising above) and a return to the ancestral homeland of Africa
- Going back to go forward: finding your roots (ancestry) to find yourself. Gaining flight by digging into roots (routes via roots)
- Significance of NAMING to identity: “Dead” family; “Milkman”; “Pilate;” “Not Doctor Street”
- Natural Law Vs. Civil Law
- Divine Authority Vs. Political Power
- Civil Disobedience
- Ritual Purifications
- Duties Towards The Dead
Food and drink seem to define culture in the Odyssey, to the point that eating food from another culture can literally turn you into them, and cause you to forget about your homeland. What practices do you engage in that make you feel connected to your cultural home? What aspects of modern life do you think define a culture?
Odysseus is described as a “man of many ways,” implying he is both a skilled leader and a cunning, even deceitful person. Do you think lying can be used for good? When is deceit a strength, and when is it a flaw?
The Odyssey is a Greek “homecoming story,” a genre of epic poetry which assumes the journey back from war is as difficult as the war itself. In the course of his journey, for example, Odysseus must learn to tone down his own warlike character he gained during the war. What challenges have you faced returning to “normal” after a trying experience? Are there any parallels between Odysseus’ experience and your own?
One major debate in Dante’s period was whether people who lived outside Christendom, or in a time before Christ, were still condemned to hell as nonbelievers. Do you think it is fair to hold someone accountable to a rule they are unaware of? If you were present during these debates, what would you argue?
Visions of the afterlife often imply some sort of commentary on the current world. Pick a religious tradition you know something about. How does its vision of the afterlife imply judgements about what’s “right” and “wrong” in the present world?
One reason the Inferno is fascinating is the intricacy and creativity of its punishments. Why are we seduced by reading about grotesque things? Is the appeal of Inferno similar to that of horror movies like Saw?
For Dante, sin isn’t simply a matter of good-versus-evil. Instead, he thinks one sins when one strays from a “golden mean” between two principles, doing more of one than the other in an unbalanced way. (For example, in Canto 5 the Lustful are not just those who desired, but those who let their desire overpower their reason.) What kind of ethics do you have? Are there absolute goods and absolute evils in the world? Or are most things good in moderation, but bad in excess? Or some combination?
One thing that makes the Inferno remarkable is that Dante is incorporating figures from all world religions in his narrative, and not always in a condemnatory fashion. This in turn reflects the growing awareness in Dante’s time of the diversity of cultures and beliefs around the globe. Do you think religions are mutually exclusive, or complementary? Do they imply that one is right and the others wrong, or do they complement each other in some way?