For those who are interested, I have posted the revised syllabus for my Medieval Christian Thought class this fall. The first time around was one of my most successful classes last year, and I’m very glad to be able to refine it. I’ve decided to stick with my decision to start with Augustine’s Confessions, providing background on pre-scholastic Latin theology with lectures that match the topic of that day’s reading. The main change is in the Aquinas text I’m using; the first book of Summa Contra Gentiles really dragged last time, so I am just using the Library of Christian Classics selection from the Summa Theologiae to give them some more variety. The rest is basically shuffling the mystical texts I was using and covering monasticism and sacraments in lecture rather than through texts, because the texts I used didn’t work and because the students honestly didn’t seem to care — so sharpening the focus on scholasticism and mysticism seemed like a better use of time.
On assignments: after experimenting last year with using lectures as pure background — which I think was actually really good and allowed the students to direct the lectures more toward their areas of interest through their questions, etc. — I’m following student advice by quizzing them over the lectures as well as the reading, though I’ll make sure they know that I will come up with the lecture question the night before so that they won’t stress out about asking questions that might direct attention away from the quiz question. Also on student recommendation, I’m stepping up the “engagement level” of the second paper, which last time around was still in the analytical summary format. Especially given that it’s on the ontological argument, getting them to hold back from critique and response was very difficult — why not let them go with their gut? I’ll get better papers to read, and they’ll feel like they delved in more: everybody wins.
(I already have the selections from Julian and Hadewijch in mind, but if anyone can remind me of which specific Eckhart sermons would work best, that would save me a little legwork — but if not, I think I can find time in the next three months to track the good ones down.)