Stop and smell the proses

After approximately two months enrolled in Humanities I, I have learned two things. One, we have read a variety of intellectually stimulating works. Two, we have read them way too fast. It has become increasingly difficult to absorb all of the information that I've been presented with; my head is a saturated sponge. I hope I'm not the only one with this problem, and I don't think that I am. Luckily, there's an easy solution, but it takes a more relaxed approach to the material.

It took Virgil more than ten years to complete the Aeneid, so it would make sense to take a reasonable amount of time to read it. We flew though the Aeneid, limiting our readings to only five of the twelve books. Virgil would be spinning in his grave. To add to the flighty reading of the Aeneid, we only spent three class periods discussing those five books. Spending less than four hours discussing a work that took the author over ten years to produce is ludicrous. I understand that there is a necessary curriculum that must be covered; I am just suggesting that it be changed to allow for a more thorough understanding of the works. That may sound na've, but it is more beneficial to read less material and understand it, than to read as much as possible and understand little.

In the course description for Humanities found in the Undergraduate Bulletin, it states quite succinctly that the course is: "A search for moral, social, political alternatives and meaning embodied in the institutions, culture, and literature of Western Civilization…" Nowhere in that description does it include the intention to browse through the canon of Western literature, reading as many works as possible. The primary objective seems to be a focus on the core elements of the literature, the moral, the social, and the political ideas. It takes more than three class periods to understand those elements; that should be a given. It feels incorrect to say that I've read the Aeneid given that I've only read almost half. I could navigate in a discussion of that half, but any farther than that, I'd be lost. That isn't really a full comprehension of the work.

I don't mean to sound completely negative towards the Humanities curriculum, because it does provide a broad survey of Western literature, but that only really provides a basis for further study. Perhaps that is the goal of the Humanities courses, but it seems like more of a cop- out than anything. Unless the works are discussed at a later period, the Humanities program will only allow for a basic grasp of the texts, which doesn't do them justice.

In particular, jumping around within the literature, reading only some of the constituent parts of the works while omitting others provides a jumbled impression as opposed to a detailed understanding. For the course to provide the greatest good, a thorough appreciation of the details of the literature must be of a higher priority than the appreciation of the quantity of pieces read. I'd like to end this article with a flashy journalistic turn-of-phrase, but unfortunately I have over three-hundred pages of Dante's Inferno to read by tomorrow. Pray for me.