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Instruction with Special Collections & University Archives

Resources on classroom instruction with SCUA

Course Description

Explores ancient texts that articulate perennial issues, such as the nature of the human and the divine; virtue and the good life; the true, the just, and the beautiful; the difference between subjective opinion and objective knowledge. These texts exemplify basic modes of speech, literary forms, and patterns of thinking that establish the terminology of academic and intellectual discourse and critical thought across many different societies: epic, rhetoric, tragedy, poetry, epistemology, science, democracy, rationality, the soul, spirit, law, grace. Such terms have shaped the patterns of life, norms, and prejudices that human communities have continually challenged, criticized, and refashioned throughout history. To highlight both the dialogue and conflicts between the texts and the traditions they embody, this course, taught by a multidisciplinary staff and in an interdisciplinary manner, focuses on both the historical contexts of these texts and the ongoing retellings and reinterpretations of them through time. The course includes texts from the ancient Mediterranean world that have given rise to some of the philosophical, political, religious, and artistic traditions associated with “The West,” emphasizing that Western traditions were not formed in a vacuum but developed in dialogue and conflict with other traditions. Common to all sections of this component are classic works such as Homer, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Plato, and a Roman text. Complementary texts or visual materials from the ancient period, in and beyond the Western world, and/or response texts from the medieval or contemporary periods are added by faculty in individual sections.

Proposed Class Outline


By the end of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify different types of written documents
  • Comment on the permanence of different forms of written knowledge
  • Describe/understand the development of written documents over time


  • Students can identify a source, its main content and perspective, and its defining characteristics.
  • Students will be able to 

Exercise 1: Prior Knowledge Check (10 minutes)

  • Have students use phones/laptops for online quiz
  • Run through a list of questions to check what students already now
  • End with a discussion question about book production

Exercise 2: Simplified Timeline (20 minutes)

  • Show 5 items that give a broad overview of the history of writing/book production (10 minutes)
  • At end of presentation, divide students into 5 groups
  • Assign each group an item and ask them to brainstorm information that is missing about the item and its context

Exercise 3: In-Depth Timeline (20 minutes)

  • Go through the items again and ask students to share information that is missing
  • Show additional materials that support missing information and show other aspects of book history
  • Ask what things are still missing and discuss why those things might not be held in SCUA

Sample Item List

Colgate University Libraries | 13 Oak Drive, Hamilton, NY 13346 | 315-228-7300