Honors: Contemporary World

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Course Level:
Course Length:

Required Text:

Russell Kirk, Redeeming the Time (Wilmington: ISI, 1998)

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

            (Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2002).

James Kalb, The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered

Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (Wilmington: ISI, 2008).


T.S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” online @: http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html


George Orwell, 1984 (New York: Signet Classics, 1949; 2008)


J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994).


The book store has the appropriate editions of the books needed (save “The Waste Land” which can be found on the above website).  While you are free to use any edition of these books, you are better off purchasing the editions in the bookstore.  When the introductions to the books are assigned, it will be taken from the edition listed here. 


Course Objectives:

This class seeks to provide students with the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation issues and problems of the contemporary world.  Readings in this course are concentrated on a broad interdisciplinary spectrum, tackling various issues that grip the contemporary word.  The readings in this course are intended to challenge students’ basic assumptions while assisting in learning to think critically.  Please note that practically all the works assigned are from conservative authors and will present the conservative world view.  The instructor has unapologetically established as an overarching theme of the course that the academic world does not present the conservative view point.  Part of the responsibility of the student is to understand and explain why you either agree or disagree with the views presented in your readings.


To accomplish this primary goal, this course further seeks to develop and refine skills in close and attentive reading, analysis of texts and evidence, oral and written communication, and critical and synthetic thinking. All of these serve as additional objectives of this course. 




Course Requirements:

Students must complete all assignments to pass this course.  Students are expected to have the daily reading assignment completed before entering class.


Each student will lead two (2) discussion sections throughout the semester.  On the second day of class students will pick which discussions they wish to lead.  The remaining days will be directed by the Instructor.   Your grade for these discussions will be based upon 1: The methods and quality of questions you ask; 2: Your ability to lead and direct the conversation and keep on your topic.  We will discuss Instructors expectations further in class.


Every other week, students will write a 2-3 page “critical response paper” based upon any reading of the previous two weeks.  Students will pick which readings to respond to.  In these papers, students will have to detail the author’s thesis and general argument and write a critical response to it – either agreeing or disagreeing – and state why, with evidence, why they agree or disagree.  Each student is allowed to opt out for one week of the papers, but the student must give the Instructor prior notice before opting out!


Students will write two (2), four to six (4-6) page papers.  Each paper must be based on one of the questions contained at the end of the syllabus.  The paper must be written in 12point size, Times New Roman with 1’ margins.  Papers not meeting this basic format will be penalized one letter grade.  Furthermore, your evidence must come from only books in question.  In other words, NO OUTSIDE SOURCES ARE ALLOWED!  Use of outside sources will result in a ZERO (0) for the assignment! Footnotes, endnotes, nor bibliographies are necessary.  I strongly encourage you to submit a draft of your paper for me to read over before the paper is due.  If you wish to do so, please submit the draft at least four (4) class periods before the paper is due.  Note, too, that the draft does not have to a completed paper although it should be fairly complete so I can provide proper comments.


Because most of this class is seminar, your attendance is mandatory.  For every non-University excused absence, you will lose one (1) point from your final grade!



Grades in this course are based on point totals (not percentages).  All grades are based on what is written on the exam and said in seminar, not on what the student subsequently decides she or he "really meant."  The following is a breakdown of points and equivalent grades.  No curve, ever.  No bonus work, ever.


Discussion Lead 1                                                                                           = 100points

Discussion Lead 2                                                                                           = 100points

6 Bi-Weekly Papers (50pts each)                                                                    =  300points

Paper 1                                                                                                            =  100points

Paper 2                                                                                                            =  100points

Daily Seminar Participation                                                                           =  400points

(10pts daily,30pts per week)

Total:                                                                                                               1100pts


Thus for a particular grade, students will have to fall within these points breakdown:

1100-990 = A, 989-880 = B, 879-770 =  C, 769-660 =  D, 659-0  =  E


Reserve Clause: The instructor reserves the right to make changes in the syllabus when necessary.  This includes pop-quizzes when it seems students have not been keeping up with their readings!


Students with Disabilities: It is the policy of the University of Kentucky to accommodate individuals with disabilities pursuant to federal law and the University’s commitment to equal educational opportunities.  It is the responsibility of the student to request accommodations through ADA procedures of the college found in the catalog and student handbook.


A Note on Plagiarism:  Students must not plagiarize, which is the use of primary or secondary materials without proper citation in the footnotes, endnotes, or in the work.  Plagiarism is theft of intellectual property and plagiarism results in the immediate failure of the assignment and/or worse.  No assignment in this class requires the use of outside source, please do not use any for your assignment.


Decorum: The following rules of decorum must be followed at all times.  Failure to follow any rule will result in a loss of points for the day and possibly off the final grade.

1.      Cell Phones must be turned off  - literally! For every ring that goes off without my prior knowledge will cost the entire class one point off their final grade.  No exception

2.      Turn your IPods or other mp3 players off.

3.      Use of Laptops is a privilege, any abuse of this privilege, such as surfing the web or listening to music, will result in everyone using pen and paper.

4.      While disagreements with the Professor and your classmates are welcomed, especially given the topic and nature of the course, please keep your remarks respectful.


Essay Topics

First Paper. 

Compare Wendell Berry’s vision of America with Russell Kirk’s.  In particular, what issues/problems do both see addressing contemporary America and what are their solutions to these problems?


Second paper.  Choose one of the following questions to write your essay from.

1: What are the central themes/tenants of Lord of the Rings, and how do they address the contemporary world?


2: Compare the lamentations of “The Waste Land,” and the dystopia of 1984 with Tolkien vision of Middle-Earth – what points, do you think, were all the authors making about the contemporary world?  



Daily Reading Assignments:

January 14: Intro to the class


January 16: Kirk, 168-180; Berry, 35-46 (Professor Led Class)


January 19: No Class


January 21: Kirk, 3-15; Berry, 305-321


January 23: Berry, 47-64; Kirk, 16-28, 213-226


January 26: Berry, 65-81, 159-181; Kirk, 115-127, 213-226


January 28: Berry, 81-92; Kirk, 68-86, 41-52


January 30: Berry, 93-143. First Critical Response due


February 2: Kirk, 128-140, 227-239, 298-309


February 4: Breyer, 1-38


February 6: Breyer, 39-101


February 9: Kalb, 3-104


February 11: Kalb,105-132


February 13: Kalb,133-152 Critical Response due


February 16: No Class


February 18: Kalb,153-232


February 20: Kalb,233-254


February 23: Kalb,255-291


February 25: Eliot, “Burial of the Dead,” and “A Game of Chess”


February 27: Eliot, “The Fire Sermon,” “Death by Water,” and “What Thunder Said”

                      Critical Response due


March 2: Orwell, Book 1


March 4: Orwell, Book 2, chapters 1-3


March 6: Orwell, Book 2, chapters  4-7 Essay 1 due


March 9: Orwell, Book 2, chapters 8-10 (rest of book 2)


March 11: Orwell, Book 3, chapters 1-3


March 13: Orwell, Book 3, chapters 4-appendix Critical Response due


March 16-20: No Class


March 23: LOTR, Book 1 (Professor Led Class)


March 25: LOTR, Book 2, chapters 1-2


March 27: LOTR, Book 2, chapters, 3-4 Critical Response due


March 30: LOTR, Book 2, chapters, 5-10


April 1: LOTR, Book 3, chapters 1-2


April 3: LOTR, Book 3, chapters 3-4


April 6: LOTR, Book 3, chapters 5-9


April 8: LOTR, Book 3, chapters 10-11


April 10: LOTR, Book 4, chapters 1-4 Critical Response due


April 13: LOTR, Book 4, chapters 5-10


April 15: LOTR, Book 5, chapters 1-3


April 17: LOTR, Book 5, chapters 4-7


April 20: LOTR, Book 5, chapters 8-10; Book 6, 1-4


April 22: LOTR, Book 6, chapters  5-6


April 24:  LOTR, Book 6, chapters 7-8 Critical Response due


April 27: Kirk, 53-57, 128-140, 284-297 (Professor Led Class)


April 29: Berry, 293-304, 321-328,182-194 (Professor Led Class) Second Essay due


May 1: Kirk, 141-156 (Professor Led Class)


Critical Response and Essay Grading Rubric:

The A paper will:

1. Contain a clear, well-develop thesis that addresses the essay topic.


2. Develops the thesis with substantial, relevant information surrounding the essay topic.


3. Provides an effective analysis of how the American Revolution could be considered a defense of liberty.


4. Contains effective use of the documents and does not merely restate what the document says.


5. Uses the documents to prove and analysis the thesis.


6. Tone consistent with the purpose and audience; tone enhances effectiveness of critical thinking; words clear, accurate and appropriate to the assignment in standard written English.


7. None or very few spelling errors, none of which would be caught by spell-check; words and phrases effectively combined, appropriate to the assignment; sentences varied and complex; punctuation, capitalization, and other conventions, such as documentation style, are correct.


The B paper will:

1. Contain a thesis that is partially developed in addressing the essay topic


2. Supports the thesis with only some relevant information surrounding the essay topic.


3. Provides a limited analysis of how the American Revolution could be considered a defense of liberty.


4. Make only limited use document and provides little more than a restatement of what they say.


5. Tone appropriate to assignment and audience, but effectiveness of the writing inconsistent; words mostly standard written English, with some errors of usage.


6. Few errors, none detracting from overall effectiveness; sentence structure generally correct; sentences not varied enough in structure yet not detracting from the overall effectiveness; few errors in punctuation, capitalization and other conventions, such as documentation style; errors not detracting from overall effectiveness.


The C paper will:

1. Contains a confused or unfocused thesis.


2. Provides few relevant facts, or lists facts with little or no application to the question


3. Has little or no analysis of the documents.


4. Merely lists and the documents; only restates what each document says.

5. Tone cannot be discerned or displays disinterest; tone not counterproductive, just ineffective; some words inaccurate or appropriate to oral speech, not standard written English.


6. Several errors detract from the effectiveness, especially errors that should be caught by use of spell-check; many sentences structurally weak and repetitive, with grammatical errors; errors in punctuation, capitalization, and other conventions, such as documentation, detract from overall effectiveness.


The D/F paper will:

1. Lacks a thesis or merely restates the question


2. Shows no evidence of critical thinking.


3. Provides only a small amount of relevant facts.


4. No analysis of the documents


5. Does not meet the minimum requirements of the paper.


6. Multiple spelling and grammatical errors.


Paper Format

The essay should follow this basic format.


1. Intro paragraph: state, in your own words, the question, provide a thesis, and tell the reader how you will address the body of the paper.


2. The body of the paper: here you will delve into the contents of the essay. A good way to see the body of the paper is to view it as the defense of your thesis. It is here that you will incorporate your documents into your essay.


3. Conclusion: Restate, in your own words (but different from the introduction) the question, restate your thesis, and remind the reader how you answered and defended the thesis.


Final Note: For a class centered around a particular set of views, a full disclosure is appropriate. If you are a left-wing student who happens to embrace Marxism, that’s fine – as long as you are able to explain why you are so completely wrong about everything (that’s a joke!).  The same applies to those right-wing students who think government should be limited – that’s fine as long as you are able to explain why you think that way and the righteousness of your view (another joke, lighten up!).  What the life of the mind is all about – or supposed to be about – is open mindedness to hear all view points and, perhaps most important, render a reasoned decision about the validity of the ideas presented.