Welcome to John Rickard's Humanities 150 Page


Frontispiece of the 1831 Edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein


Professor John Rickard
Office: Carnegie 202
Class meets MF 9:00 - 9:52 am in BIOL 222 and W 7:00 - 8:52 pm in CARN 208
Office Hours: MWF 1:30 - 2:30 pm and by appointment
Office Phone: 570-577-1424
E-mail: rickard@bucknell.edu

Course Description:

This course will chart some of the most important intellectual, political, and artistic trends in the West from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century. We will examine how concepts like “the Renaissance,” “the Reformation,” and “the Enlightenment” came into being and the ways in which they represent (or misrepresent) the history of this period. Along the way, we will examine how continuities and discontinuities in Western thought have been established and continue our exploration of how (or if) this intellectual heritage resonates in the present.

Book List:

E-reserve (password is “pico”) containing:

Francis Bacon, “The Four Idols” from The New Organon
Charles Darwin, extracts from The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man
René Descartes, from Discourse on Method and Meditations
Desiderius Erasmus, Selected Letters
Emma Goldman, “What I Believe” and “The Traffic in Women”
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
David Hume, “Abstract” from A Treatise on Human Nature
Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probability
Martin Luther, “Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation”
Niccolò Machiavelli, extracts from Discourses on Livy
Pico della Mirandola, “On the Dignity of Man”
Isaac Newton, extracts from the Principia Mathematica (“Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”)
Samson Occum, “A Short Narrative of my Life”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men”
William Tyndale, “Luther’s Prologue to the Book of Romans”
James McNeill Whistler, “Mr. Whistler’s Ten O’Clock”       
Mary Wollstonecraft, selections from A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Books (available in the bookstore)

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness, ed. Paul D. Armstrong (Norton, 4th edition)
René Descartes, The Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. Cress (Hackett)
Galileo Galilei, Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo, ed. Drake (Random House)
Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. Mansfield (Chicago)
Marx, The Communist Manifesto (International)
Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus, ed. David Wooten (Hackett)
Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. Hindle (Penguin)

Class Format:

Because there are separate lecture hours for this course, we will devote all of our discussion sections to debate and interpretation of the reading and the lectures.  Below you will find a list of dates and lectures that form the structure and content of the course.  In order for our discussions to be fruitful, it is important that you complete the readings prior to the day of class for which it is assigned, and that you pay careful attention to the lectures.  It is also essential that you bring the relevant text(s) to class each day, so that we can examine specific passages.

You will find it helpful to look through the syllabus in order to locate those weeks in which we will cover a larger amount of material and plan your reading accordingly.



Paper One Assignment

Paper Two Assignment

Oral Presentation Schedule



The Renaissance and Reformation

Week One. January 17 and 19

Introduction by Professor John Hunter, Christian Johnson Chair in the Humanities.
Lecture on renaissance and Baroque art by Professor Janice Mann (Art and Art History).
Reading: selections from Pico della Mirandola, “On the Dignity of Man”


Week Two. January 22, 24, 26

Reading: Machiavelli, The Prince,  especially ch. 5-9; 15; 17-18; 21-25; Appendix (letter to Francesco Vittori); The Discourses on Livy, Book One (introduction, chapters 2, 25, 27, 28); Book Two (introduction, chapters 13, 29), Book Three (chapter 1)

Lecture: Professor David Thunder (Political Science)


Week Three. January 29, 31 and February 2        

Reading: Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

Lecture by Prof. John Hunter (Comparative Humanities)

Listen to In Our Time podcast on Marlowe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20050707.shtml

Suggested Presentation Topics: Renaissance Magic; The English Faust Book (Included in your textbook)

Week Four. February 5, 7, 9            

Reading: Luther, “Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation” and “Prologue to Romans” (translated by William Tyndale)

Lecture by Prof. Jay Goodale (History)

Suggested Presentation Topics: The Peasants' Revolt of 1525; Translating the Bible (Wyclif, Tyndale, and others)


Seventeenth-Century Revolutions: Science and Politics

Week Five. February 12, 14, 16

Reading: Galileo, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina” and "The Starry Messenger”

Lecture by Prof. Gillian Barker (Philosophy)

Suggested Presentation Topics (Friday, Feb. 16): Renaissance Astrology; Astronomy Before Galileo (Copernicus, Islamic Astronomy); Optics and Galileo


Week Six. February 19, 21, 23

Reading: Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy and Francis Bacon, “The Four Idols,” from The New Organon

Lecture by Prof. Gary Steiner (Philosophy)

Suggested Presentation Topics: Historical context (Thirty Years War); Giordano Bruno and the Inquisition

First Paper due, February 23


Week Seven. February 26, 28 and March 2

Reading: Hobbes, Leviathan, chapters 4-5, 12-15, 17, 18, 19, 21 (On E-Reserves)

Lecture by Prof. Amy McCready, Dept. of Political Science

Suggested Presentation Topics: The English Civil War; Theory of the Divine Right of Kings

Week Eight. March 5, 7, 9

Reading: Newton, selections from Principia Mathematica ; Laplace, selections from “A Philosophical Essay on Probability” and Hume, selections from A Treatise on Human Nature

Lecture by Prof. Tom Solomon, (Physics)

Suggested Presentation Topics: The Other Newton (Newton's religious and non-scientific writings); The Royal Society


Week Nine   



The Enlightenment and its Discontents

Week Ten. March 19, 21, 23

Reading: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men

Lecture by Prof. Allison Stedman (French)

Reading: Samson Occum, “A Short Narrative of my Life” (on E-Reserves under Calloway, "The World Turned Upside Down")

Lecture by Katherine Faull (Comparative Humanities and German)

Suggested Presentation Topics: Diderot and the Encyclopédie; The French Revolution; European Captivity Narratives (especially Mary Rowlandson)

Week Eleven. March 26, 28, 30


"The Evolution of Modern Art"

Read "The Three Contemporary Schools," by Jules-Antoine Castagnary (on E-Reserves under Castagnary)

Lecture by Prof. Roger Rothman (Art and Art History)

Suggested Presentation Topics: Open






Modernity: Nature, History, and the Self

Week Twelve. April 2, 4, 6

Reading: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and Mary Wollstonecraft, Selections from A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Lecture by Prof. Ghislaine McDayter (English)

Suggested Presentation Topics: Electricity; Erasmus Darwin; Marriage and the Legal Situation of Women; Hideous Progeny: Frankenstein after Frankenstein

Week Thirteen. April 9, 11, 13

Reading: Darwin, Selections from The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man

Lecture by Prof. Emeritus, Doug Candland (Animal Behavior, Emeritus)

Suggested Presentation Topics: Lamarck and pre-Darwinian Evolutionary Theories; Alfred Russell Wallace; Huxley-Wilberforce Debate


Week Fourteen. April 16, 18, 20

Reading: Marx, The Communist Manifesto

Lecture by Professor Charles Sackrey (Economics, Emeritus)

Reading: Emma Goldman, “What I Believe” and “The Traffic in Women”

Lecture by Prof. John Rickard (English)

Suggested Presentation Topics: William Morris, Socialism, and the Arts and Crafts Movement; Russian Anarchism (Bakunin and Kropotkin); Utopian Communes of the 19th Century; The American Anarchist Tradition


Week Fifteen. April 23, 25, 27

Reading: Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Read Chinua Achebe, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness" in Norton Critical Edition, pp. 336-349

Lecture by Prof. John Rickard (English)

Suggested Presentation Topics: The Belgian Congo and King Leopold II; Chinua Achebe's "An Image of Africa" (report on Achebe and lead discussion); Sir Roger Casement

Week Sixteen. April 30

Course conclusion

Second Paper due April 30


Essays (40%) - Two essays of 7-10 pages in length, February 23 and April 30. A one-page abstract is due ten days prior to the deadline, and a conference to discuss the abstract and/or a rough draft will be scheduled as well.

Presentations: (20%) - One oral presentation, approximately ten minutes long, on a topic agreed upon with professor (see above, "Suggested Presentation Topics"). I will grade presentations on preparation; clarity; delivery; length; and use of PowerPoint and other handouts and aids.

Shorter Writings (20%) - In-class writing, quizzes, and special topics assigned periodically by professor.

Class participation (20%) - attendance and active and informed participation in lectures and seminars.

Comprehensive Exam (Pass/Fail) - Only for those students who seek participation in Humanistic Scholars Program. Will include all course work covered in both HUMN 098 and HUMN 150.

LINKS (This section under construction)

Below you will find websites related to some of the artists and philosophers studied in Bucknell's "Art, Nature, Knowledge" course. These sites have been carefully evaluated by Professor John Rickard, and yet it is important that you realize that web research must always be undertaken carefully--each scholar using the web should take care not to accept information uncritically, without regard to the author of the site and the reliability of the information contained therein.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that web research alone is not sufficient for thorough study. Don't forget the resources of Bucknell's Information Services and Resources department .

The resources below are listed according to their relation to the Humanities 150 syllabus.

A good general archive of art images is Mark Harden's Artchive. As a Bucknellian, you also have access to ARTstor, a premier art website; enter through the ISR database page.

One of the best places to look for resources related to Humanities 150 on the internet is The Voice of the Shuttle, maintained by Alan Liu at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Many of the sites below were selected from his comprehensive listing.

Another excellent source of materials relevant to Humanities 150 is Washington State University's World Cultures Page

Raphael, "The School of Athens" (Painting depicted at top of this page)


Pico della Mirandola

Martin Luther:




Questions, comments, corrections? Mail to:rickard@bucknell.edu