Syllabus: 1506

LIB 200: Humanism, Science, and Technology

Fall I 2013/ Section 1506/ Fridays 9:15-12:45/E 232

Reacting to the Past: “Trial of Galileo: Aristotelianism, the “New Cosmology,” and the Catholic Church, 1616-33

LaGuardia Community College, Department of English

Instructor: Bethany Holmstrom (bethanyholmstrom [at], @bdholms)

Course Description & Outcomes: The liberal arts seminar explores aspects of the relationship between humanism, science and technology. In this seminar, students will be asked to reflect on knowledge and perspective gained in liberal arts core and elective courses. Students will be expected to apply the knowledge, writing, and critical thinking skills they have gained from their coursework to considerations of the significant problems and struggles of the 21st century as evidenced by the intersections of the lived human life and advances in science and technology. Through readings, seminar discussions and substantial writing assignments, students will explore the ways developments in science and technology may contribute to abuses as well as advancements in civilizations. Students will also examine and critique personal and cultural values that contribute to intolerance and reflect on the responsibilities of citizenship in a diverse society. As a capstone course, this seminar is designated “writing intensive”; students will complete a substantial number of writing assignments, including a research essay.

For this class in particular, you will be playing a Reacting to the Past game to explore the tensions between science and religion.

By the end of this course, you will be able:

  • To apply knowledge from earlier educational context and from liberal arts core and elective courses to conceptual issues from the natural, scientific and technological worlds;
  • To compare, contrast and critique the role of humanism, science and technology in earlier periods and in contemporary cultures;
  • To write critically about “humanism,” science,” and “technology” and explain how these concepts and their related disciplines are reflected in the everyday life and art of communities and cultures;
  • To describe and evaluate, through written and oral presentations the ways cultures use science and technology and the ways theses related to science and technology are reflected in cultural contexts;
  • To complete a substantial staged research essay on a topic related the theme(s) of the course in consultation with the instructor;
  • To connect personal involvement with humanistic pursuits to an understanding of broader social commitments and the responsibilities of citizenship in a diverse society.

Required Texts: Frederick Purnell, Jr., Trial of Galileo: Aristotelianism, the “New Cosmology,” and the Catholic Church, 1616-33. Available at Neko Print shop, basement of the B building. Estimated cost: $18.

Bertolt Brecht, The Life of Galileo. Will be available on BlackBoard.

Grading Standards

Writing Assignments = 100%

Your formal assignments will include several “in character” research papers (fulfilling the Research and Information Literacy and Critical Literacy competencies), a reflective synthesis at the end of the course, and a recorded speech (for the Oral Communication competency). You will be allowed to revise each formal assignment at least once.  For your in character speeches, all drafts are due on our class blog BY MIDNIGHT on the day it is presented in class. For every day your paper is late, one letter grade will be deducted: thus, papers handed in more than three days late will automatically receive a failing grade. All other assignment deadlines will be established as we go, but there will be plenty of notice: please keep in mind that paper deadlines will be very often dictated by game play, so we have to remain flexible.

  •  Informal writing & PechaKucha (10%)
  • Position Papers (“in character” position papers/speeches during the games) (60%)
  • Letter to future students (10%)

Attendance & Participation

Be in class, be on time, be engaged. 4 tardies = 1 absence, 4 hours of missed class (2 full class periods) = failing grade. By “participation,”  I mean that it should be clear that you’ve done the reading and that you’ve thought about the material: this time spent reading/thinking will be apparent from the comments you make and the way you participate in the class conversation. If you aren’t here, you aren’t prepared, and/or you aren’t engaged, you simply will not earn a passing grade in the class.

Other matters

Plagiarism: We’ll talk a lot about plagiarism and how to avoid it, but if – after all these discussions – you use someone else’s words or ideas and fail to attribute them, you will fail that paper and the event will be reported to the college, as per LaGuardia’s Academic Integrity Policy.

Students with Disabilities: To receive accommodations for testing and instruction, students with disabilities must inform the Office for Students with Disabilities: please also inform me of any accommodations you might require.


Class 1 / September 20

In class: syllabus overview; Reacting to the Past introduction

Class 2 / September 27

Game background, role sheet distribution

Reading due: Game introduction, p. 1-48.

Class 3 / October 4

Discussion of readings, faction quiz, public speaking workshop

Reading due:  role sheets, Game book pages 51-126


Rendering of Aristotle’s cosmology

Class 4 / October 11

Research & Writing Workshop

Class 5 / October 18

PHASE ONE: Game Day 1, Lectures at the College of Rome; Game Day 2, first trial by the Holy Office


Trial of Galileo, Italian School, 1633

Class 6 / October 25

Game Day 3: Prince Cesi’s Party; Trial Session 2 at the Holy Office – PHASE ONE ENDS

Class 7 / November 1

Election of Pope

Reading due: Galileo’s Dialogue, Gamebook pages 127-200

Discussion on Dialogue, begin phase 2 papers; faction quiz

Class 8 / November 8

Phase 2 Preparation

Research, writing, and faction meetings


‘Galileo before the Holy Office”, a 19th century painting by Joseph-Nicolas Robert-Fleury

Class 9 / November 15

PHASE TWO: Game Day 5: Holy Office, Postmortem

Brecht's LIFE OF GALILEO at the Classic Stage Company, New York City, 2012

Brecht’s LIFE OF GALILEO at the Classic Stage Company, New York City, 2012

Class 10 / November 22

Reading due: Brecht’s Life of Galileo, begin working on PechaKucha presentations

Class 11 / November 27 (Wednesday)

PechaKucha responses to Brecht’s Galileo

Class 12 / December 6

E-Portfolio submissions; REFLECTIVE SYNTHESIS due as a .pdf on Dropbox by class time.

PECHAKUCHA presentations in class: you must be ready to present and your image list must be posted to Dropbox as a .pdf by class time.

Class 13 / December 13

Grades distributed, class wrap-up


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