Topics / Heritage
Four courses in the Millsaps Core Curriculum are taught by faculty from the Division of Arts and Letters. These courses are all multidisciplinary courses - combining history, literature, philosophy, religion and fine arts. You have a choice of two different ways of meeting this requirement. You may choose the Topics program, taking a Topics course each semester beginning in the fall of the freshman year and continuing through the spring of the sophomore year, or you may enroll in the Heritage program and complete the requirement in a single year. Heritage is an intensive course that is equivalent to two courses each semester. It can only be taken by freshmen, so the decision whether to follow the Topics or the Heritage path must be made at the time of your initial registration.
Core 2: Topics of the Ancient World
This course is the first in a sequence of courses designed to engage your thinking about a particular historical period from multiple perspectives. Topics are selected for their appropriateness in bringing together various strands of thought from that period. Each course has a distinct focus - history, literature, philosophy, religion or fine arts. To insure a broad exposure to the liberal arts, students taking this approach must include at least three different focuses in their choice of Topics courses.
The first course in the Topics sequence covers the Ancient World, which for purposes of the Millsaps core extends from the beginning of recorded history to the fall of the Roman Empire, the birth of Mohammed, and the classical age in India. You will be given a broad range of topics from which to choose. These topics have included "Classical Drama," "Dawn of Reason," "Christians, Pagans and Jews," and "Ideas of Sacrifice." Multidisciplinary Topics courses do not attempt to survey an entire period, but rather to provide a window in the culture of an earlier time. In a course on the ancient world you may expect to learn about the rise of civilization, mythical worldviews, social hierarchies, and early forms of technology.
Core 3: Topics of the Premodern World
The next course in this historical sequence centers on the Pre-modern World. It encompasses the period commonly know in the West as the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Topics from this period have included "Celt, Saxon & Viking," "Love and Knowledge," and "The Quest for the Holy Grail." In a Pre-modern World course, you may expect to learn about institutionalization of group identity, expansion of mythical worldviews, and further developments of agricultural systems and social hierarchies. Since this period includes the Crusades and the beginnings of global exploration, there will be ample opportunity to observe the effects of contact with other cultures, including the Americas, India, China, and Japan, on the development of Western civilization.
Core 4: Topics of the Modern World
The historical sequence which begins in the freshman year extends through the sophomore year starting with a course on the Modern World in the fall and concluding with a course on the Contemporary World in the spring. The modern period is characterized by the rise of science and the influence of thinkers such as Galileo, Newton, and Descartes, but it also includes writers, artists, inventors, statesmen, and religious leaders of various nationalities. Topics of the Modern World have included: "Passion and Persuasion in Nineteenth Century America," "The Age of Revolution," and "Religion and Cultural Encounter." Courses in the modern period introduce you to developments such as individualism, nationalism, industrialization, and colonialism. Because they are taught at the sophomore level, these courses present students with more complex thinking and writing assignments.
Core 5: Topics of the Contemporary World
The concluding course in this sequence takes you into the twentieth century. It is the most difficult period to characterize because we are still living through it, but it is also one that particularly challenges us to look critically at ourselves. Topics of the Contemporary World have included "Ritual Masks: Religious Meaning, Social Function," "Advertising and the Rise of Consumer Culture," and "French Film: The French (Out) Look." Typically these courses include films and videos as well as more traditional sources of information. The cross-cultural dimension present in all of the courses in this sequence is particularly prominent in the contemporary period.
Core 2-5: Heritage of the West in World Perspective
Heritage provides an alternative to the sequence of Topics courses. It is a full-year multidisciplinary course extending from prehistory to the present. Team-taught by faculty from several departments, Heritage focuses on major developments in Western culture while incorporating pivotal events and seminal ideas from other cultures. Comparisons with Eurasia, Africa and the Americas help to define the origin and nature of Western civilization while fostering an appreciation for cultural diversity and global interdependence.
If you choose the Heritage option, you will attend four large group sessions and three small group sessions per week. The entire class meets together for the large group sessions, which consist of lectures or visual and musical presentations by members of the Heritage staff. These sessions help you organize, interpret, and gain perspective on the readings. The small group sessions are devoted primarily to discussion. The purpose is to give you an opportunity to express opinions, challenge judgments, debate issues, and pursue questions raised by the readings and the lectures. In addition to discussion, there is a substantial amount of writing associated with this course.
The first semester of Heritage covers the same historical period as the first two courses in the Topics sequence, while the second semester is equivalent to the sophomore Topics courses. These two approaches to the study of culture, Heritage and Topics, are academically equivalent. Heritage has the advantage of providing a connected narrative for the entire period from prehistory to the present, while each Topics courses is limited to a single subject explored in greater depth. Students who choose Heritage will have fewer electives in their freshman year, but more electives in their sophomore year. Whichever option you select, you are assured a rich intellectual experience covering a broad expanse of history and incorporating many different perspectives.