Humanities 302: Tradition, Revolution, and Poetic Transgression

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Humanities 302: Tradition, Revolution, and Poetic Transgression is a course for juniors at Wyoming Catholic College which shows students the transition from the unified vision of the ancient world presented in earlier semesters at the school towards the revolutionary thoughts and characteristics of modernity.


Modern thought and letters challenged the very ground of the classical and medieval world (Humanities 101, 102, 201, and 202), introducing dichotomies between faith and reason, as well as theory and practice. Renaissance and Reformation figures prided themselves on having rediscovered the true spirit of the classical world or of the primitive Church, but they radicalized the ideas they borrowed to the point that they would have been unrecognizable to the ancients. Later, as Enlightenment presuppositions took hold, intellectual counter-revolutionaries endeavored to find justifications for traditional modes of knowing, particularly the literary (Romantics). Thus, the legacy of modernity is an exciting and perilous blend of tradition and revolution. On the one hand, Romanticism provided the first full theoretical justification for the purpose and use of imaginative literature, but the Romantic era also gave birth to the satanic hero or revolutionary who transgresses the boundaries and defies the ordinary understanding of the good. Often combined with progressive ideology, his heroism requires the destruction of ordinary moral norms and the people who hold them.


  • Descartes, Discourse on Method
  • Milton, Paradise Lost
  • Pascal, Pensées
  • Voltaire, Candide
  • Pope, Essay on Man
  • Marx, The Communist Manifesto and Other Writings
  • Turgenev, Fathers and Children
  • Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment
  • Metaphysical and Romantic poets, Norton Anthology of Poetry

Usually Taught By