Readings In Culture

Course Syllabus –Readings in Cultures


Time: Weekly (3 hours: 16 Ws.)

Professor: Abdeslam Badre


Course Overview


This course provides the student with cultural background and a wide range of cultural content bearing on Western and non-Western cultures from ancient times to roughly our modern era. By so doing, the course seeks:


  1. To help the student focus on the ways different individuals and cultures have oriented themselves in space/ time, according to language, thought-patterns, and the symbols provided by myth, ritual, and sign-systems;
  2. To sensitize the student to the major ideas, assumptions, belief-systems, theories, and paradigms which have influenced and shaped Western cultures and sometimes even global cultures;
  3. To foster the student’s critical thinking skills, through engaging reading strategies, writing assignments, and projects;
  4. To provide a refreshing perspective by challenging the student to think in new ways and to apply ideas of culture and cultural difference to his/her own life;
  5. And to assist the student in the daunting task of developing and refining his/her reading, conceptual, communicative, and writing skills.


The course is divided into eight segments, each centering on a specific historical era: Ancient Greece; Ancient Rome; the Middle Ages; the Crusades; the Renaissance; the Reformation; the New Monarchies; the Scientific Revolution, and beyond. In each segment, one class period will be devoted to a straight-forward lecture along with video watching and analysis, the second will require students to read essays by professional historians analyzing the past, and the third will require students to read primary sources (historical documents from the cultures and periods examined in this course). In the second and third sessions of each segment, students will be expected to discuss the class texts in detail – we will be using the primary and secondary sources to draw a detailed picture of the past, and will be comparing past political developments, ideas, and social structures to our own present-day equivalents. In this way, we will seek both to understand the past on its own terms and to examine the roots of our contemporary world. As an example: we will compare medieval romances (as a literary art form) with present-day romance novels to understand how concepts of gender, family, and love have changed over time.


In this class, students will regularly practice their writing skills with written assignments and a final paper, and will have many opportunities to express their ideas verbally in class discussions. In both the written assignments and the class discussions, students will develop their analytical skills by identifying the course readings’ main theses, supporting arguments, evidence, assumptions, and rhetorical strategies.



Michelle M. Houle, 2001. GODS AND GODDESSES IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY. Library of Congress. Printed in the United States of America.

Course Requirements


This course is heavily based on reading and discussing the assigned texts. In a nutshell: students will be graded on the following elements:

Attendance, Participation  & Discussions:


  • For a satisfactorily successful completion of this course, students must attend classes and come prepared to participate fully in class activities.
  • Students are highly encouraged to engage with their classmates and instructor in the target language, and seek help from the instructor and peers whenever needed.


  • Home reading will be assigned on weekly basis. Therefore, students are expected to come to class having done their assigned homework. Late submission of homework assignments may be checked but will not be given any credit. 
  • Completion of the homework and its submission on time will guarantee the homework grade. My feedback will be in the form of comments rather than grades, as my concern here will be the process and progress of students’ learning.
  • Students are encouraged to study and work on homework with peers as much as possible, since that will optimize learning.  It is important to follow up on my comments on the homework, and it is students’ responsibility to seek the instructor’s further assistance.
  • Presentations: You are required to deliver one presentation (about 10 to 15 minutes long) on one of the chapter from the assigned course textbook. Each student will be assigned a chapter from the textbook during the first week of the semester.
  • Important Note: Absences will not be tolerated. If a student has a medical, legal or otherwise valid excuse for missing class (the validity of the excuse is at the discretion of the instructor), then this student is not excused for the homework due during the missed period, and must turn it in when they come back. Students are also responsible for material covered in class while they are away. THREE UNEXCUSED ABSENCES will result in an Attendance & Participation grade of “0” (20% of your evaluation!).


Final Exam:

There will be a session final exam that comprises all parts covered during the whole semester. Students will be notified about the date and format of the midterm exam ahead of time. Additionally, each student is required to submit between 5 to 7 page essay typed (double spaced) on one of the topics provided. Papers and exams are due on the dates announced in class or indicated below. Unless discussed with me IN ADVANCE.


Classroom Policy


Each student must fulfill the following requirements of the course:


  • Spend at least 3 hours per week on self-study. Self-study includes all assignments given by the instructor.
  • Conduct Internet and library research, review class notes and handouts, study the textbook, and perform all other activities as requested.
  • Please deactivate your cell phones before class and keep them off during class time. No phone calls and no text messaging are allowed during class. If cell phone use becomes a distraction in class the offending student will be penalized.
  •  Laptops are only allowed when needed for occasional class work. However, when that happens, be informed that e-mail check and web-surf are strictly prohibited
  • You are responsible of bringing all the necessary text-book materials. Students without textbook will not be allowed to the class.
  • Tardiness: Late arrivals are a distraction and interfere with the learning that is taking place in the class as a whole. Students who are more than ten minutes late for class will be counted as absent for that class.


Useful Links & References



  • For grammar reference and self-corrected exercises, irregular verbs, tenses:
  • Highly recommended. Wide selection of grammar exercises:
  • A comprehensive selection of grammar exercises from the University of Victoria, Canada. Check out the home page for some reading exercises, too:
  • A wide range of grammar quizzes at different levels. Includes some vocabulary and phrasal verbs practice.
  • ESL Blues offers interactive grammar exercises for elementary and intermediate students as well as explanations of common errors:
  • Grammar rules and exercises:


  • Wide range of podcasts:
  • Two short (3 to 5 minute) podcasts available every week, in clearly spoken English:
  • “6-Minute English”. Podcasts for learners of English. Excellent resource. Transcripts available :
  • A wide range of BBC podcasts (advanced level):
  • Podcasts on subjects as varied as peace symbols, pilgrimages and twins. Consult the archive online (click on the topic), or subscribe free of charge to receive a monthly podcast:
  • Interviews with famous writers, painters, filmmakers, musicians, scientists, sports personalities, etc. from the BBC archives. Advanced level:



Semester’s Calendar

  1. Week1: Course Introduction
  2. Week2: Universal Stories of the Creation (Christian, Islamic, African etc.)
  3. Week3: The Babylonian Tradition (selected sections from The Epic of Gilgamesh)
  4. Week4: The Greek Tradition (the Olympian gods; demi-gods; and heroes …)
  5. Week5: The Christian Tradition (the story of the Fall; the story of the flood …)
  6. Week6: Bhuddism and Hinduism
  7. Week7: Major Greek philosophers: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc.
  8. Week8: Major Muslim philosophers: Ibn Rochd
  9. Week9: Bacon and the Method of Science
  10. Week10: The Philosophers of the Enlightenment
  11. Week11: Utopian Socialism
  12. Week12: Human Progress and/or the Liberation of Women
  13. Week13: Evolutionary theories
  14. Week14: The Age of Anxiety (Freud; Sartre;
  15. Week15: general review
  16. Week16: Final exam