FALL 2002

“Love is merely a madness, and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punished and cured is, that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too. Yet I profess curing it by counsel.”

-Rosalind, in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, III.II.152


“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, Are of imagination all compact.”

 –Theseus, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.I.9.

Vincent  van Gogh (1853-1890)
The Sower, 1888
Oil on Canvas,
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
(Vincent van Gogh Foundation)









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“A reading research, and/or lecture seminar, as specified each semester, on a particular topic, period, or genre, as specified each semester. Reading seminars will require extensive reading of, and reports on, primary and secondary works involving the topic, while research seminars will require a research project(s), which extensively investigates a certain aspect about the topic, period, or genre. Student discussion will be paramount” (RSU Bulletin, 2001-02, p. 246).


The official description is obviously a little vague (“to be specified”). This course is an advanced seminar in the Humanities. It is designed to be the culmination of your academic experience at Rogers State University in the Bachelor's of Arts, Liberal Arts program (in fact, if you have not already completed the BALA’s Portfolio/Capstone Project courses, you need special permission from the professor just to enroll in this class). In the above description, this seminar falls somewhere between a Reading Seminar and a Research Seminar. The crucial fact to note is that student discussion- your contribution- is paramount.


The specific topic for this year's Humanities Seminar is “Madness and Beauty.” We will read a number of literary and scholarly works that deal with madness (or irrationality), and its relationship to ideals of beauty and goodness. Each unit we examine a different work (or selections from various works), and we will spend the vast majority of our time reading, discussing, and writing about the meaning and significance of those works. That means that the course will require a great deal of work on your part, but it will be worth it. This course is also the first step toward the completion of your Capstone Project and Portfolio. In this course you will formally propose your project and begin compiling your portfolio, both of which you will complete in the Capstone Project course this spring.


Van Gogh  

Link to the Van Gogh Museum:



You have five main responsibilities during this course. First, of course, you must read all of the assigned readings; second, you must participate fully in all of our class discussions; third, you must create seven projects (for lack of a better word) during the course (one for each of the seven units); fourth, you will lead our discussions once during the semester; and fifth, you must propose your capstone project. Your grade will be the result of your performance on these projects, the discussions, the presentation, the capstone proposal, and the final exam.

What's a unit project? Basically, in every unit every student will respond to the material for that unit. In most cases that material is a text, the reading assignment for the unit, but in a few cases it is something else (an art show, a web-site, etc.). Whatever the material in question, you the student will respond to the work-- that may involve criticizing, evaluating, or interpreting the work in question. If that sounds vague, that’s for a reason. You are free to decide what form your response takes. It may be a traditional academic essay; it may be a creative work of fiction or poetry related to the material at hand; or it may be a work of art, a piece of music, a painting—whatever you decide works best for that particular unit. Hopefully, you will choose different means of response for different units. We will discuss further (during the first unit) what is involved in these projects, and what I expect from you. Primarily, I want to see that you have done some critical and creative thinking about the work in question, but we will discuss more what that involves.

I will be grading these projects according to the criteria listed under “Grading Policies” (below), but evidence of creative and critical thinking will be particularly important. Understand also that we are doing one of these projects every two weeks, so I do not expect your masterpiece, your magnum opus. I do expect that you will do some creative and critical thinking about the material in question, and that's mainly what I want to see in your projects. You will show your work in class so that everyone can see (and discuss) each other’s creations. At least once in the semester every student will write a more traditional academic essay for their presentation. All essays must be typed and double-spaced, four to five pages long, with margins of 1.25 inches.

Given the time-sensitive nature of this course, no credit will be given for work not submitted on time. All projects are due at the beginning of the class period. Further details on the nature of these assignments will be given in class. There will also be a final exam, the nature of which will be discussed in class later in the semester. Failure to complete any presentation or assignment will be grounds for failure of the course as a whole.

            We will talk quite a bit about your capstone projects. I am sure you are all feeling some anxiety. These are designed to be the culmination of your Liberal Arts education, “an original, specialized project, integrating the student’s cumulative academic experiences” (RSU Bulletin 2002-03, p. 242). This can be an academic essay, a series of artworks, a novella- the choice is yours. Once you have a general topic in mind, you will need to contact a member of the faculty to serve as your advisor. Whatever you propose must be approved both by your advisor and by this year’s Capstone Committee. Further details on the requirements for the Capstone Project will be discussed in class.

Finally, this course will emphasize discussion. I will regularly suggest questions pertaining to the material we will be discussing in the following class. Students should come to class prepared to address these questions. On certain days, our discussions will be student-led. Every student will be responsible for leading the discussion twice during the semester. On those occasions, that student will present questions for discussion, summarize some of the basic issues, and defend their conclusions about the material in question. Regardless of whether you are leading the discussion or not, you will have to participate every day to pass this class. Always bring to class the book we are discussing.


All student work will be judged according to the following academic criteria:

  • Evidence of creative or innovative thinking.
  • Depth of critical thinking and observation.
  • Accuracy of information.
  • Organization and clarity of thoughts.
  • Fidelity of work (no plagiarism, cheating, etc.).
  • Basic writing mechanics.

Every student’s final grade will be earned via the following:

  • Unit Projects                                  35%
  • Participation                                   25%
  • Presentations (i.e., leading class)       5%
  • Capstone Proposal                         25%
  • Final Exam                                     10%


Course Schedule

Aug 20 T          Introduction to the Course

UNIT I: Madness and Beauty in Hamlet

Aug 27 T          * William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Sep 3   T          Film and Discussion: Hamlet                                                     First Project Due

UNIT II: Subterranean Madness: Notes from Dostoyevsky

Sep 10 T          * Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from Underground

Sep 17 T          Film: Christopher Nolan’s Memento                                         Second Project Due

UNIT III: The Philosopher’s Madness: Nietzsche

Sep 24 T          * Friedrich Nietzsche,   Birth of Tragedy and Beyond Good and Evil (selections)   

Oct 1   T          Nietzsche, Ecce Homo                                                             Third Project Due

UNIT IV: The Artist’s Madness: Van Gogh

Oct 8            Vincent Van Gogh Slide Show and Discussion                          Fourth Project Due

UNIT V: Civilization and its Discontents

Oct 15 T          * Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, Parts I-IV

Oct 22 T          * Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, Parts V-VIII

Oct 29 T          Film and Discussion: Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound               Fifth Project Due

UNIT VI: Is it me?

Nov 5  T          * Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Nov 12 T          Film:  Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest     Sixth Project Due

Nov 19 T          Film: David Fincher’s Fight Club                                

UNIT VII: Conclusions

Nov 26 T          J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye                                           Seventh Project Due

Dec 3   T          Capstone Proposals


Dec 10-16       FINAL EXAM           Exact day and time to be announced.


* Indicates student-led discussion.

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                        John Everett Millais. Ophelia, 1852. Oil on canvas, the Tate Gallery, London. 



 VAN GOGH, Vincent
Branches with Almond Blossom
February 1890
Oil on canvas
73.5 x 92 cm
F671 JH1891
Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam

Scan by http:// Mark Harden