Self and God Spring 2004

Core 212: Ideas, Values, Images, Sec. 04

Spring 2004, Self and God

M W 03:00-04:15

Flanner 625  


Professor Svitlana Kobets

Office: 302 Decio Hall

Office Hours: MW 11:30-12:30, F 10:30-11:30




This course will survey the history of selfhood as expressed in masterpieces of philosophy, spirituality, literature and art. Through our reading of a variety of works representing different times, cultures and societies, we will explore various paradigms of the human understanding of selfhood, its essence and its place in society. Our readings will include masterpieces of Eastern and Western civilizations spanning Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modernity. In the first half of the semester we will explore attitudes toward the individual and selfhood as expressed in classical Greek philosophy (Plato, Socrates, Epictetus, Diogenes), documents of early Christian asceticism (lives of St. Anthony and St. Alexis the Man of God) and biographical writings of Medieval Europe (St. Francis of Assisi and Margery Kempe). After considering European civilization and Christianity we will turn to Eastern spiritual traditions including the teachings of Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam (Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, The Bhagavad-Gita, poetry of Jalal al-Din Rumi). In the second part of the course we will address European Modernity. First we will read and discuss Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Then we will consider findings of psychoanalysis and their importance for twentieth-century social and aesthetic thought (Freud, Jung). The quest for the individual self and spirituality under totalitarian regimes will be the focus of our discussion in the latter part of the course. We will read a novel by the Russian anti-utopian writer Zamiatin. The Nobel Prize winning novel Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, will conclude our course.  Issues important to our discussions will include the individual and society, freedom and submission, self-awareness and the failure of self-knowledge.  


In part two of the College Core Course, “Ideas, Values, and Images,” titled “Self and God,” we will continue working on developing skills in critical thinking through reading, discussing, and writing. Our readings will include masterpieces of Eastern and Western civilizations spanning Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modernity. In the first half of the spring semester we will concentrate primarily on the individual as a psychological entity, exploring what classical philosophy has called “the parts of the soul,” and going on to ask what form of life is best for the self in view of its natural condition. In the final half of the semester we will turn to consider the importance of the religious option.



Since the course is a seminar, discussion will be its most important aspect. All are expected to come prepared, with assignments read, ready to share ideas generated by the readings. Each student will be expected to make at least two contributions per class period directly related to the assigned readings. Over the course of the semester each of you will have the opportunity to lead class discussion.



Attendance is mandatory.  Please be sure to bring a letter of excuse for official or excused absences (illness, religious holidays, family emergencies). When you know of a necessary absence in advance, please mention it to me. Unannounced absences when you are discussion leader are noted as inconsiderate behavior. If an emergency comes up, it is your responsibility to exchange the date with someone else and to inform me as soon as possible of the arrangement.



You will be required to write two 5-page papers in which you will explore in depth some aspect of the texts we have read and discussed in class.  The first paper will be due in the middle of the semester and the second paper will be due by the end of the semester. The papers will be written on topics of your choosing (in consultation with me). Therefore, you should be thinking throughout the semester about possible paper topics, in accordance with your own personal interests. The deadlines for choosing your midterm and final paper topic will be respectively February 18 and April 15. I will also provide some suggestions to get you started. Remember to keep your ideas focused and specific, and please feel welcome to speak with me during office hours at any stage of the writing process!



In partial fulfillment of the writing assignment in our class, you will all be expected to regularly participate in the online discussion forum by posting comments on the reading on WebCT. 10 short essays are the minimum.  I will post discussion questions on the WebCT site each week. 



There will be a final exam. It will consist of three questions to be answered in writing. The list of possible questions will be submitted to you in advance.



Class participation/leadership    20%

Midterm paper                                     20%

Final paper                                           20%

Short essays                                         20%

Final exam                                            20%


Please acquaint yourself with the chapter on Notre Dame's Academic Code of Honor in Du Lac (beginning on p. a-33): particularly section IV, entitled "Student Responsibilities under the Academic Code of Honor," points A through D. A copy of the Honor Code can be obtained from the Office of Undergraduate Studies, or online at

Please keep in mind that your written assignments and papers must be entirely original. Furthermore, if secondary sources are used for the final paper, these should be listed in footnotes and/or a bibliography given at the paper's end, and any quoted material should be placed in quotation marks and clearly attributed to its source (suggested bibliographic formats can be found in the MLA Handbook or the Chicago Manual of Style). Plagiarism (=any written work presented as entirely your own and original to the particular assignment that is not, in fact, entirely your own and/or original to the particular assignment) is a serious matter and will be investigated and brought to a hearing by the Honor Committee of the Department of German and Russian. Penalties for violations of the Honor Code are severe. If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of your activities with respect to this course, please ask ahead of time. It is always better to be safe than sorry!



Lopez, Barry. "God's Love on a Darkling Plain" and "The Naturalist" (preceding lecture on January 28th.)

Plato. Apology from The Trial and Death of Socrates. Hackett

Epictetus. Handbook. Hackett.

Euripides. The Bacche. Trans. Arrowsmith. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Dante. The Inferno. Trans. Robert and Jean Hollander. Doubleday

Gay, Peter. "An Autobiographical Study." The Freud Reader. New Haven: (course book)

Becker, Ernest. "The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis." The Denial of Death. New York: Free Press Paperbacks, (course book)

Ramachandran, V.S. "Preface" and "The Phantom Within." Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind. New York: William Morrow. (course book)

Sophomore Literary Festival

Shakespeare, William. Romeo & Juliet. Signet Classic

Performance of Romeo & Juliet by Actors from the London Stage in Washington Hall, Feb 11-14

Johansen, Ruthann. Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark. University of California Press

Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. Bantam Books

Hillesum, Etty. An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork. Owl Books

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Bantam Books

Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation. New Directions

Lao Tzu. Tao Te Ching. Trans. Victor Mair. Bantam

The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War, translated by Barbara Stoller Miller. Bantam Books

Eck, Diana. "The Faces of God, "Encountering God. Beacon Press (course book)

Esposito, John L. "Muhammad and the Quran; Messenger and Message," Islam: The Straight Path. Oxford University Press. (course book)

Rumi, Jalal al-Din. The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks. Harper San Francisco

O'Connor, Flannery. "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and "Revelation" (course book)






Wednesday, January 14

Introduction to the course.

What do we mean by the "self"?

Introduction to Plato, Euthyphro.


Monday, January 19

Plato, Apology, Crito; Epictetus, Handbook


Wednesday, January 21

Epictetus, Handbook

Euripides, The Bacchae


Monday, January 26

Euripides, The Bacchae


Wednesday, January 28

Dante, The Inferno, Cantos I-X


Monday, February 2

Dante, The Inferno, Cantos XI-XXI


Wednesday, February 4

Dante, The Inferno, Cantos XXII-XXXIII


Monday, February 9

Gay, "An Autobiographical Study" (course book)


Wednesday, February 11

Becker, "The Present Outcome of Psychoanalysis" (course book) and Ramachandran, "Preface" and "The Phantom Within" (course book)

Kat Moravek, Kristin Graham


Monday, February, 16

Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

Sarah Whitaker


Wednesday, February 18

Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet


Monday, February 23

Johansen, Listening in the Silence, Seeing in the Dark

Nora Fallon

deadline for choosing your midterm paper topic


Wednesday, February 25

Chopin, The Awakening

Jessica Fickey


Monday, March 1

Chopin, The Awakening

Hillesum, An Interrupted Life, pp. 3 --top of 128


Wednesday, March 3

Hillesum, An Interrupted Life, pp. 128—231







Monday, March 15

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Author's Preface, Part One, pp. 7-195

deadline for submitting midterm paper

Bob Seus


Wednesday, March 17

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part II, pp. 195-395

Matt Masoni

Curtis Leighton


Monday, March 22

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part III, pp. 395-619

Emily Pike


Wednesday, March 24

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part IV, pp.619-790

Alison Glass


Monday, March 29

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, Part IV, pp.790-913, Epilogue

Daniel Gonzales


Wednesday, March 31

Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation," What is contemplation?," "Everything that is, is holy," "Union and division," "We are one man," "Learn to be alone," "The pure heart," "Integrity," "Sentences," "Faith," "From faith to wisdom," "The mystery of Christ," 'The Woman clothed with the sun," "The general dance," and

Madeleine Heck


Monday, April 5

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Stephen Heiny


Wednesday, April 7

Miller, The Bhagavad-Gita, pp. 1-14, 19-75 and Eck, "The Faces of God" (course book)

Brandon Carrillo



(Friday April 9 through Monday, April 12)


Wednesday, April 14

Miller, The Bhagavad-Gita,  pp. 77-125, 137-154

deadline for choosing your final paper topic


Monday, April 19

Essay on Islam. (course book) Rumi, Chapters 1-4


Wednesday, April 21

Rumi, Chapters 12, 16, 18, 19


Monday, April 26

O'Connor, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (course book)


Wednesday, April 28

O'Connor, "Revelation" (course book)

Final paper due


Study Days, April 29 - May 4
Finals, May  7


© 2019 by Svitlana Kobets. All right reserved.