Ancient and Medieval Political Thought

Fall 2010 syllabus (pdf)

Required Texts

The following books are available for purchase at the Book Mark. While you are welcome to use other editions or translations, excerpts, page numbers and chapter breaks may not match those listed in the syllabus.

  • Peter J. Steinberger, ed. Readings in Classical Political Thought. ISBN 978-0872205123
  • Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations. ISBN 978-0915145799
  • Epictetus,The Handbook (The Encheiridion). ISBN 978-0915145690
  • The Epicurus Reader, Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson, eds. ISBN 978-0872202412
  • In addition, several required readings will be available for download through the course website. These must be printed and brought to class on days for which they are assigned. I have placed all the reserve readings for POL 265 here. There is one pdf file that contains all the reserve readings (Fall 2010 Readings) or you can download each file individually.

  • Course Requirements and Assessment


    Consistent attendance is a minimum condition of class membership. Students do not receive credit for attending but failure to attend class will negatively affect grades. In a discussion-oriented class such as this one, missing class discussion is missing coursework that cannot be made up.

    Participation (25%) (20% if final exam is necessary)

    We will proceed largely by means of discussion. Thus, attendance, preparation and participa-tion are essential. You should approach each class with a good grasp of the assigned reading and your own perspective toward it. These texts can be dense and complex, so you will need to take time to read carefully, figuring out what claims the authors are making and what questions you have about them.

    Students should be prepared to raise questions and offer critical insights about the reading material and the issues that it raises. To facilitate this, I may, on occasion, administer œmini-quizzes in class. These may or may not be announced in advance. Such quizzes are counted as part of your participation grade. Note, however, that although I construe course participation broadly, you cannot earn an A, B, or C for participation without speaking in class on a regular basis. At some point in your life, you will have to speak publicly. You might as well start now.

    Vigorous class debate and discussion is both expected and desirable. Presence alone does not earn participation credit: a passively silent and/or clearly unprepared student earns no credit for participation. Note that there is a difference between passive silence and active listening. You need not speak constantly to participate meaningfully in class. Attentive, thoughtful, respectful, and reflective listening to others constitutes active participation. I construe class participation broadly. Come to class having read the material carefully and thoughtfully. Participate in class to the greatest extent you can. Speak when you have something to say. Ask questions when you have them. Listen carefully and respectfully to others. Engage in small group discussions. Come to my office hours. Send me e-mail. Engage in whatever other ways make sense for you.

    Late arrivals are distracting and disrespectful. Persistent tardiness will lower your participation grade.

    Microessays (30% -- 10% each)

    Each student will write three microessays of approximately 750 words each. There will be four opportunities to submit microessays. If you choose, you may submit microessays on all four dates and I will drop the lowest grade received. Because you have flexibility regarding which microessays you choose to write, I will permit extensions or late papers only under the most dire of circumstances. Printer and disk mishaps do not qualify. Poor time management or lots of work due the same week do not qualify.

    Essays (30% -- 15% each) (25% -- 12.5% each if final exam is necessary)

    Each student will write two essays of 8-10 pages each. By asking you to synthesize and evalu-ate issues raised in the course, these essays are designed to enhance your understanding of course material and capacity for critical analysis, to improve your abilities to articulate these understandings in writing, and to assess the knowledge you have gained from the class. Due dates for these assignments are listed below. Paper topics will be distributed approximately 2 weeks before each essay is due.

    Late papers will be docked 1 full letter grade per day for 2 days after the original due date. After 48 hours, late papers will not be accepted.

    Students will have the opportunity to rewrite and resubmit the first of these essays. Students choosing to complete a re-write must meet with me within one week of receiving the graded essay to discuss their essay and plans for revision. The revised essay is due two weeks after the original graded essays were distributed to the class. Revised essays will be graded; the final grade for the essay will average the original grade and the grade on the revised essay.

    Exams (10%) (20% if final exam is necessary)

    Midterm Exam: October 25th in-class (10%)

    Final Exam (if necessary): Saturday, December 18, 3:30pm [10%]

    Exam formats will be discussed in class.

    It is my hope that no final exam will prove necessary for this course. The percentages listed above reflect that hope. If, however, I believe that class preparation and engagement is less than satisfactory, I reserve the right to administer a final exam in take-home form, during the exam period, or both. In this event, the final exam will count for 10% of your course grade, class participation will count for 20%, and each essay will count for 12.5%. All other percentages will remain unchanged. My decision will be made on December 14 at the conclusion of the last class session.

    Final Symposium

    See "Symposium Information" section of the syllabus for information.


    Failure to complete any major component of the course (e.g., failure to attend an adequate number of classes, failing to adequately prepare for substantial numbers of classes, or failing to complete assignments related to the moot court exercise) may entail failing the course as a whole, regardless of performance on the completed components.

    Late assignments will be docked 1 full grade per day for 2 days after the original due date. Except under extraordinary circumstances and with prior permission, assignments will not be accepted if more than 48 hours have passed since the assignment was due. Assignments will not be accepted via e-mail without prior permission.

    Academic Honesty

    I take the principles of academic honesty seriously and will uphold the policies and procedures of Gustavus Adolphus College. Your continued presence in this class indicates that your work for this course will comply with the academic honesty policy and the Honor Code.

    Dishonesty of any kind with respect to examinations, course assignments, alteration of records, or illegal possession of examinations is considered cheating. Students are responsible not only to abstain from cheating, but also to avoid making it possible for others to cheat. Submitting someone else's work as your own constitutes plagiarism. Academic honesty requires the full acknowledgement of ideas taken from another source for use in a course paper or project. You must include citations for material that you quote or paraphrase from another text; in general, it is better to overcite than to undercite.

    All work that you submit for this course may be submitted only to this course and should be based upon work and thought undertaken only for this course.

    Violations of the Academic Honesty Policy will result in at least a grade of 0 for the specific assignment and/or failure of the course. Students accused and/or penalized for these violations and students who become aware of such violations have specific rights and responsibilities as outlined in the Honor Code section of the College Catalogue.

    Please see the Gustavus Academic Catalog for copies of the relevant policies.


    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Art of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) work together to ensure 'reasonable accommodation' and non-discrimination for students with disabilities in higher education. A student who has a physical, psychiatric/emotional, medical, learning, or attentional disability that may have an effect on the student's ability to complete assigned course work should contact the Disability Services Coordinator in the Advising Center, who will review the concerns and decide with the student what accommodations are necessary. Upon receipt of documentation from Laurie Bickett, Disability Services Coordinator, I will be happy to work with you on appropriate accommodations.