Course Schedule

Class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 4:15 in Ryland 213. Four study groups meet separately at their own designated times. Each reading assignment is to be done by the date of specified class meeting (indicated below). The schedule of assignments is subject to change when necessary.

I. Utopia: The Thought Experiment

In this section of the course we will be confront the problem utopian thinking in its internal reasoning and its wider application. Plato’s Republic engages in a thought experiment that is a search for true justice. His dialogue is a form of argumentation in which he aims to convince others that his Kalipolis with a philosopher king is the best system for all.

Week 1

Aug 25             Introductions. Defining a social utopia. Orienting the class to the goals of the seminar.

Aug 27             LIBRARY ORIENTATION. Meet in Boatwright Classroom B-26.

Read: Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Part One, “Style as Choice” (pp. 1-26)

Write RP1: “How do I imagine a utopian community to live?” (500 word response paper)

Study Group assignments will be sent to you by Friday Over the weekend, meet with your study group and pick time, date and location for regular meetings. Choose two captains, a navigator and a bombardier. Share your utopian vision with each other. Come up with two study questions for Republic, pp. 1-35.


Week 2

Sept 1              Read: Republic, Book 1, pp. 1-35, lines 327a—354c and “Getting ready to discuss Republic” on our BlackBoard site (
Bring study questions to class on two 3”x5” index cards

Sept 3              Read: Republic, Book 2, pp. 36-56, lines 357a—376d.
Write RP2: “How does Plato teach the reader about justice through Socratic dialogue?”

Over Week 2, each of the four study groups will meet with Dr. Watts to develop strategies for their investigative reading of Republic and help with research for their oral reports in Week 3.


Week 3

Sept 8              Read: Republic, Book 3 & 4, pp. 76-135
                         Discuss: Investigative reading of Plato’s Republic. Reports from the Guardians and the Phalanx.

Sept 10            Read: Republic, Book 5 pp. 138-164
                         Discuss: Reports from the Genevans and the Tranibors.

Read and prepare for Study Group reports that further investigate Plato’s Republic. Turn in list of sources consulted on the day of your group report.

Write RP3: “What makes Kallipolis, with its philosopher-king, a utopian society?” (due Tuesday)

Week 4

Sept 15            Read: Republic, Books 5-6 pp.164-197, lines 472a—502c and Book 7, pp. 208-215, lines 514a—521c

Sept 17                        Writing Workshop 1: The Argument
                        Read: They Say, I Say, pages 19 to 51 on BlackBoard
                        Write: Exercise 1, pages 28 to 29, AND Exercise 2, page 51

Hand out Essay I. Draft due Tuesday, Sept. 22nd Final due Sept. 30

***TRIP TO TWIN OAKS ON SATURDAY, SEPT 19th. Bus leaves at noon.***

II. Utopia as a Critique of Modern Life

This section addresses the problem of utopian thinking as an avenue for social change. In this section we will delve deeply into analyzing Utopia and the life of its author, Thomas More. More addresses the problem of utopia without any clear answer. Does the introduction of utopian ideals necessarily lead to more socially cohesive societies? How does the establishment of “a better place” or “a more perfect union” deal with the will of the individual?

Week 5

Sept 22                        Writing Workshop 2; Revising Prose.
Read: Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Part II “Clarity” (Lessons 3&4, pp. 27-65)                                                                                                                                  Write: Exercise 3.2 (p. 34); Exercise 3.7 (p. 41-42); Exercise 4.2 (p. 56-57); Exercise 4.4
TURN IN Draft of Essay 1. Bring a paper copy of your finished draft to class.

Sept 24                        Read: Thomas More, Utopia, Book I, pp. 3-24 and “Getting Ready to Discuss Utopia” (on BB)

This week you will meet with Yasmine, the Writing Consultant for this class. She will hold individual conferences with you to review your completed draft of Essay 1. The final version is due on September 30th by 4 pm.

Week 6

Sept 29                        Read: More, Utopia, Book I, pp. 25-50

*** Essay 1 due on Wednesday at 4 pm ****

Oct 1               Locate & Read: Brendan Bradshaw, “More on Utopia,” The Historical Journal 24(1): 1-27.

Write RP4: explain what Bradshaw argues in his article – quote the argument directly, and show the steps that he takes to explain his argument it in your own words.                                          Cite the source in the Chicago/Turabian Style. Email your RP to me by 3 pm.

***Trip to CHAT on Thursday, October 1st. Buses leave “the Hub” at 3 pm***

***FYS Student Conference, Friday, Oct 2nd from 1 to 5 pm in International Center Commons***

Week 7

Oct 6              Read: More, Utopia, Book II, pp. 51-115. Exhibit sources — Group 1: Vespucci’s Travel Diary (on BB), Utopian alphabet (p. 2) and map (p. 52), Group 2: Erasmus on More’s Approach to Education” and (on BB)

ALL STUDENTS must read the assigned pages of Utopia, Book 2. Study groups 1 & 2 presentations on investigative reading. RP 5 due by 5 pm

Oct 8               Read: More, Utopia, Book II, pp. 115-139. Exhibit sources — Group 3: “Two Swords: Heresy and Just War” and Group 4:  “On Private Property, Riches, and Poverty” (on BB)

ALL STUDENTS must read the assigned pages of Utopia, Book 2. Study groups 3 and 4 presentations on investigative reading. RP 5 due by 5 pm

This week study groups meet to prepare presentations on exhibit sources. Each group will lead the class in their “investigative reading” of More’s Utopia using sixteenth century “exhibit” sources. Every study group is required to post questions 24 hours in advance of their presentation. Every student will write a response paper (RP5) on “How does this exhibit source provide evidence that helps me better understand More’s critique of sixteenth century society and politics?


Week 8

Oct 13              Fall Break. No class meeting

Oct 15             Writing Workshop 3: Learning through self-reflection

                        Read: At least three examples of student reflection papers and their portfolios from BU         that you can access at

Write: a set of criteria for a good self-evaluation of one’s own writing

Portfolios and reflective piece due by 6 pm SUNDAY, October 18.

This week, you will meet with me to go over Essay I and discuss what you need to prepare in your learning portfolio. By now, you should have five response papers, the draft (with comments) and the final version of your first essay, and any other informal writing set aside for this portfolio. For the midterm, I would like you to write a 500-word self-reflection of your work this semester. Due Sunday at 6 pm.


III. The Problem of the Will: the Individual in Social Utopias

In this last unit of the course, we will turn to how powerful cultural changes in France shaped the thinking of one eminent political philosopher whose statement “man is born free and everywhere in chains” became the motto for revolutionaries. We will read the private and public writing of a child of the French Revolution, Flora Tristan, who sought freedom and equality for workers and women in the early nineteenth century.


Week 9

Oct 20             Read: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “Discourse on the Origin and Foundations of Inequality Among Men,” Preface and first half of Part One, pp. 77-91 and “Getting Ready to Discuss Rousseau” on BB

Oct 22            Class cancelled.

This week study groups will meet to draft a set of analytical questions of Part One of Rousseau’s Second Discourse.


Week 10

Oct 27             Read: Rousseau, Second Discourse, finish Part One pp. 92-107.
                        Write RP 6 to an analytical question, generated by one of the study groups. Due at the end of the day (10/27).

Oct 29             Read: Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Part Two, pp. 109-137.

            **Handout Essay 2. Draft due Nov. 56h. Final Due Nov 16th

On Tuesday, each member of the study group will submit these analytical question to class to begin the discussion. Following class, each person will write her/his own response (RP6) to the question of their choice, and turn it in at the end of the day on Friday (10/30) before noon.


Week 11

Nov 3               Library Session 2: Finding and evaluating sources on communal societies                       Meet in Boatwright Computer Classroom, B-26

Nov 5               Writing Workshop 4: Introductions and Paragraph Structure
Read: Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, “Clarity of Form” Lessons 7&8, pp. 98-124                   Write: Bring 2 paper copies of Essay 2 draft to class. (Workshop on reverse outlines)

Turn in your topic and short description by 5 pm Friday

Week 12

Nov 10             Research Workshop 1: Exhibit sources on communal societies
Bring an example of an exhibit source to class and a research question that you can answer with your source.

Write RP 7: to a question that you have generated from your independent research on a                              communal society. Focus your question on your exhibit source, responding with evidence                from that source.

Nov 12             Research Workshop 2: Argument sources on communal societies                        Write: an abstract of one of your argument sources and bring both to class.

This week use your study group time to locate a variety of sources for your research topic. You may want to investigate more about the community’s founding principles or rules to live by. Be sure to use reference material in Boatwright Library and the sources included in the LibGuide. Meet with the writing consultant to go over your drafts of Essay 2 this week; final versions are due Monday.


Week 13:

*****Essay 2 Final Version due Monday by 4 pm ****

Nov 17             Read: “Getting Ready to Discuss Flora Tristan” on BB, AND

Flora Tristan, Ch. 1 from “Women Travelers” pp. 1-8 (Group 1); Ch. 2 from “Peregrinations of a Pariah” pp. 9-17, 27-33 (Group 2) in Flora Tristan: Utopian Feminist
Each study group brings in two discussion questions to lead the class.

Nov 19             Read: Tristan, Ch. 4, from “Promenades in London” pp. 53-102 (Group 3) and Ch. 6, from The Tour de France, pp. 124-135 (Group 4). Each study group brings in two discussion questions to lead the class.
Write RP 8: to your critical evaluation of what you learned from class discussion

This week study groups will meet to draft two questions to generate discussion of the reading. Each member of the study group will write her/his own response (RP 8) to the discussion, due Friday at noon.


Week 14

Nov 24             Read: Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, “Grace” Lesson 9, pp. 126-142

***Annotated bibliographies due in class.***

Nov 26             THANKSGIVING BREAK


Week 15

Dec 1               Individual Presentations of Independent Research. Turn in research report at the time of your presentation.

Dec 3               Individual Presentations of Independent Research. Turn in research report at the time of your presentation.
Review Guidelines for Final Portfolio.

Your oral presentations of your research will be 8 minutes each. Everyone will prepare an outline of the main points of his/her presentation, the focus of which will be a description of the topic and the arguments and evidence that help define (and refine) the research question. The outline of your presentation should be included in your research report which is due at the time of your presentation.


Finals Week 1

Dec 7-11. All students will meet with me individually for a 30-minute conference to go over their written work this semester; more specifically, to consider which response papers to submit with the portfolio as the best evidence of what you’ve learned.


Finals Week 2
Dec 15 (Tuesday)        Final Portfolio Due by 10 pm