Western Culture and the Arts: Renaissance through the Middle Ages

I.     Course Prefix/Number: HUM 121

       Course Name: Western Culture and the Arts: Renaissance through the Middle Ages

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite


III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course surveys the great artistic and intellectual accomplishments of Western civilization from the Renaissance through the 20th Century. Content includes visual arts, literature, drama, philosophy, architecture, and music studied in historical context. IAI HF 903

IV.   Learning Objectives

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

  1. Demonstrate basic knowledge of the major cultural eras covered
  2. Define the basic vocabulary needed to discuss cultural achievements.
  3. Recognize major works of art and identify the stylistic period within which representative works of art were produced.
  4. Discuss, compare, and evaluate representative works of literature and philosophy produced within this period.
  5. Restate and critique the values expressed in the religious, philosophical and literary texts of this period, and discuss the current relevance of these values.
  6. Demonstrate basic knowledge of the European encounter with Africa, the Americas, and Asia, and evaluate the cultural effects both on Europe and the areas colonized by Europe.
  7. Demonstrate basic knowledge of the cultural and religious diversity within Western civilization and the development of nationalism, ant-Semitism, and racism within Western culture.
  8. Present and debate conflicting cultural interpretations of the Western tradition.
  9. Exhibit values related to teamwork and collaboration, fostered by the pedagogy of shared inquiry and critical dialogue appropriate to the humanities and to 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 with suggested topics and influential figures. In this section the instructor will present a similar outline that fulfills the learning objectives. This outline will include the dates on which specific topics will be covered, when exams will be given, and when papers and projects are due. This outline is not intended to suggest that one class would cover all the figures listed.)

Week 1 The Early Renaissance: Classical Roots and the Debt to the Islamic World, 1400-1494: Focus on Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, Mirandola, Josquin des Prez
Week 2 The High Renaissance and the European Encounter with the “New World”: 1494-1564: Focus on Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Machiavelli, Thomas More, Columbus, Bartolomé de las Casas, Palestrina
Week 3 The Northern Renaissance and the Reformation: 1500-1603: Focus on Shakespeare, Luther, Durer, Bruegel, El Greco, Farmer
Week 4 The Baroque Age: 1600-1715: Focus on Bernini, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Pozzo, Rembrandt, Aphra Behn, Bach, Handel, Monteverdi, Strozzi, Vivaldi, Moliere, Milton
Week 5 The Baroque Age: Scientific, Philosophical, and Political Thought; 1600-1715: Focus on Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke
Week 6 The Enlightenment: 1700-1789: Focus on Watteau, Hogarth, Vigee-Lebrun, David, Hayden, Mozart
Week 7 Focus on Kant, Hume, Wollstonecraft, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Adam Smith
Week 8 Revolution and Romanticism: 1760-1830: Turner, Friedrich, Goya, Delacroix, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz
Week 9 Focus on Jefferson, Goethe, Mary Shelley, Hegel
Week 10 The Triumph of the Bourgeoisie and the Critical Response: 1830-1871: Focus on Manet, Daumier, Millet, Verdi, Wagner, Brahms
Week 11 Focus on Marx, Darwin, Flaubert, Henry Thoreau, Whitman, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Zola
Week 12 European Imperialism and its Cultural Legacies: Focus on Douglas and Conrad
Week 13 Early Modernism: 1871-1914: Focus on Nietzsche, Freud, Kafka, Ibsen, Twain, Cassatt, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Sullivan, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenburg, Puccini, Joplin
Week 14 The Zenith of Modernism: 1914-1945: Focus on James Joyce, Elie Wiesel, Virginia Woolf, Langston Hughes, Brecht, Wright, Proust, Sartre, Jacob Lawrence, O’Keefe, Dali, Kahlo, Dorothea Lange, Gropius, Le Corbusier, Eisenstein, Copland, Ives, Ellington, Berg, Bessie Smith, Katherine Dunham, Merce Cunningham
Week 15 The Contemporary Age: 1945-present: Focus on Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir, Martin Luther King, Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, Frantz Fanon, Kiefer, Gehry, Koolhass, de Kooning, Ellison, Judy Chicago, Benjamin Britten, John Cage, Ligeti, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Samuel Beckett, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, Alice Walker, Frank Gehry
Week 16   The meaning of Western culture in a post-colonial, globalized world: Focus on James Baldwin, Orphan Pamuk, Salmon Rushdie, Derek Walcott, Edward Said, Charles Mills, Oscar Hijuelos, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Gloria Anzaldua, Paula Gunn Allen, Anita Desai, Isabel Allende, Audre Lorde

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 forty percent 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.