Western Culture and the Arts: Beginnings Through the Middle Ages

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HUM 120

       Course Name: Western Culture and the Arts: Beginnings Through the Middle Ages

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course surveys cultural accomplishments of Western civilization from its beginnings in Mesopotamia through the Middle Ages. Content includes visual arts, music, literature, theater, architecture, and philosophy studied in historical context. IAI HF 902

IV.   Learning Objectives

After completing this class, the student will be able to do the following:

A.    Demonstrate basic knowledge of the major cultural eras covered
B.    Define the basic vocabulary needed to discuss cultural achievements.
C.    Recognize major works of art and identify the stylistic period within which representative works of art were produced.
D.    Discuss, compare, and evaluate representative works of literature and philosophy produced within this period.
E.    Restate and critique the values expressed in the religious, philosophical and literary texts of this period, and discuss the current relevance of these values.
F.    Explain the rich cultural and religious diversity within Western civilization -including Classical, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions – and explain the interactions among these traditions.
G.    Present and debate conflicting cultural interpretations of the Western tradition.
H.    Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared-inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and philosophy.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

(This is a sample outline of topics.  In this section the instructor will present a similar outline that fulfills the learning objectives.  This outline will include the dates when specific topics will be covered, when exams will be given, and when papers and projects are due.)

Week 1    Defining Western Culture……Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Phoencia . . . Selections from The Epic of Gilgamesh and from Enheduanna
Week 2    Ancient Egypt
Week 3    Aegean Civilizations . . . Selections from Homer and Sappho
Week 4    Classical Greek Civilization:  Hellenic Age
Week 5    Selections from Greek Tragedy and from Thucydides
Week 6    Selections from Plato and Aristotle
Week 7    Classical Greek Civilization:  The Hellenistic Age . . . Selections from Epicurus
Week 8    Classical Roman Civilization. . . Selections from Cicero, Vergil, and Apuleius
Week 9    Judaism and the Rise of Christianity . . . Selections from the Torah and the Gospels
Week 10    Late Rome, Byzantium, and the Early Medieval West Civilization . . . Selections from Augustine, Anna Comnena, and Boethius
Week 11    The Rise of Islam . . . Selections from the Koran
Week 12    Selections from Ibn Kaldun, Ibn Rushd, and Rumi
Week 13    The High Middle Ages
Week 14    Selections from Arthurian Romances, Aquinas, and Dante
Week 15    The Late Middle Ages . . . Selections from Petrarch, Chaucer, De Pizan
Week 16    Final Discussion of what is Western culture

VII.  Methods of Instruction

The course will involve lectures, as well as seminar style discussions and small group activities.  Student will listen to music, view slides, and when appropriate, view sections of videos.  Students will be expected to participate actively and to come prepared for discussion. 

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

(Please include information here about all expectations you have for your students regarding behavior, work, etc.  The following are sample topics you may wish to cover.  Please be aware that you must require students in this course to produce at least 15 pages of critical writing over the course of the semester.  These may be assigned in a variety of ways including essays, journals, response papers, etc.)

Examples of Requirements:

  • Attendance and participation

  • Quizzes/Exams

  • Essays

  • Standards for written work

  • Final Project

  • Special policies about make-up exams, late papers, or other matters of concern

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.


The Western Humanities Volume I: Beginnings through the Renaissance. Matthews and Platt. Current edition.

Readings in the Western Humanities Volume I. Matthews and Platt. Current edition.

Supplementary readings from other primary sources as well as selections presenting debates on cultural interpretation.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

(In this section, please present the percentages or point breakdown for all the elements of the final grade. Please note that at least 40% of the grade must be based on written work rather than exams, presentations, etc.)

For example:
Quizzes/Exams…..40 points
Journals/Essays…..40 points
Final Project………10 points
Attendance and Participation…..10 points

Grading Scale.  90% - 100% = A // 80% - 89% = B // 70% - 79% = C // 60% - 69% = D // below 60 = F

XI.   Other Course Information

Instructor information
Office and office hours:
Email and website:

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at www.oakton.edu/title9/.

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at www.oakton.edu/lgbtq.