In Dialogue With the Classics and Beyond

Applications soar for first-year humanities course sequence.

A record number of students sought places this fall in Dartmouth’s first-year humanities sequence, a two-course program that sets rigorous expectations for reading and writing for its participants.

About 130 students, close to 11 percent of the Class of 2018, applied for spots in the three 16-student sections of the course offered this fall.

The fall term 2014 reading list for Humanities 1, “Dialogues With the Classics,” ranges from Sophocles to Shakespeare, from Homer to Dante. The teaching team includes Suzanne Brown, a visiting assistant professor of English; Paul Carranza, a lecturer of Spanish and Portuguese; and Andrea Tarnowski, an associate professor of French and comparative literature and chair of the Department of French and Italian.

In line with the course’s interdisciplinary spirit, this fall’s humanities cohort has tapped into numerous arts offerings at Dartmouth, including the Hopkins Center’s presentation of Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad. The group attended two academic conferences held at Dartmouth: “What Is a Classic?” and “Teaching Shakespeare.”

An October class session took place in Dartmouth’s Rauner Special Collections Library, where the object of attention was a recent addition to Rauner’s holdings: an edition of Dante’s Inferno illustrated by Salvador Dali.

“Our visit to Rauner was a great opportunity to see visual interpretations of Dante’s hellscape,” says Tarnowski. “The fact that the work’s illustrations varied so much from 16th-century editions to ones from the 19th century and then to editions from the 20th was material proof of how differently a single set of words can be perceived and ‘translated’ into images.”

Emma Marsano ’18 enrolled in the humanities program because she “liked the idea of starting my college experience by delving into the classics, works by Homer and Dante and Shakespeare that are alluded to constantly in literature and in popular culture today.”

The size of the classes has been an important factor in her experience. “Because our sections are so small, each person's contribution to the discussion is so important and you really get to appreciate what everyone has to say.” She also appreciates the wider access to faculty that team-teaching makes possible, noting that, “normally, I'd have to go several terms before being introduced to so many faculty members from such diverse departments.”

For winter term 2015, Humanities 2, “The Modern Labyrinth,” will be taught by Pramit Chaudhuri, associate professor of classics; Carranza; and Kathleen Wine, associate professor of French. Its syllabus includes Nabokov, Woolf, Borges, Flaubert, and more.