Primary Texts and Personal Empowerment


“The function of the university is not simply to teach bread-winning, or to furnish teachers for the public schools, or to be a center of polite society; it is, above all, to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life, an adjustment which forms the secret of civilization.”

The function of this class will be to put these words into practice as we read, discuss and write about a range of important primary texts with a variety of perspectives on the theme of personal empowerment: what it is, what it’s not, and how to get it (both inside and outside of school).  One of the authors we will read wrote the words just quoted; another author we will read disagreed.  Other authors put the emphasis elsewhere entirely.  Along the way, we will also focus on the development of critical thinking skills, including the ability to understand, assess and formulate logical arguments.

  • Adler & Van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
  • Plato, Apology
  • Plato, Meno
  • Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Shakespeare, Macbeth
  • Washington, Up from Slavery
  • DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
  • Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
  • Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man


TAUGHT: SPRING 2012, SPRING 2013, FALL 2013, SPRING 2014, FALL 2014,
        SPRING 2015, SPRING 2016