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The Early Moderns: Old Western Culture

The Early Moderns: Old Western Culture
This class is currently archived, but if you're interested in it being taught again, you can express your interest here!
08/22/2022 - 05/12/2023
Full Year
3.0 credits in
Grades 9-12

Taught by:

About the course

The Early Moderns is a 3-credit integrated humanities course designed to lead the student through the greatest and most influential works of the early modern period. Students in The Early Moderns course will learn to read and appreciate works of poetry, theology, novels, and political treatises from the period, think critically about, and cultivate answers to, perennial human questions, and expand their imaginative faculties to envision truth in a context outside of reason alone.

This 32-week course consists of four eight-week quarters. Each quarter students will be assigned a weekly pre-recorded lecture, reading appropriate for the week, relevant reading questions, a weekly 1.5 hour live recitation, one 1200-word essay, and a quarterly exam. In the course of the year, the students will read all the texts listed below, listened to 32 lectures, write four essays and attended a minimum of 30 (ideally 32) live recitations to discuss the texts in Socratic fashion.

Course Objectives:

  1. To become proficient in the conversational approach to learning: close readings, interpretive questions, and Socratic discussions of the texts.
  2. To gain a grasp of the literary figures and the historical framework of the time period.
  3. To develop lateral thinking skills by analyzing and synthesizing themes and motifs.
  4. To cultivate an appetite for learning as a way of life (the life of the mind).
  5. To cultivate a desire to pursue the highest things.
  6. To be able to think Christianly and write persuasively about perennial human questions.


Students taking this course will need to purchase the Old Western Culture: The Early Modern's lectures and readers (students may access the PDFs of the readers free of charge). Roman Roads Media provides Kepler students with a 25% discount on all OWC Materials.

Unit 1

  • William Shakespeare, Sonnets 3, 73, 55, 60, 103, and 106, King Lear, Richard III, and Merchant of Venice

  • John Donne, A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, Holy Sonnets 10 & 14, and Meditation 17

  • George Herbert, Redemption, The Collar, and Love III

  • Andrew Marvell, To His Coy Mistress

  • John Milton, On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity, On His Blindness, On the Late Massacre in Piedmont, and Paradise Lost

Unit 2

  • Alexander Pope, Essay On Criticism, Iliad, Essay on Man, and Ode on Solitude

  • C.S. Lewis, On the Description of Times

  • Edmund Burke, Selections & Letters and Reflections on the Revolution in France

  • Lord Byron, She Walks in Beauty and The Destruction of Sennacherib

  • John Keats, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

  • Percy Shelley, Ode to the West Wind

  • Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Unit 3

  • Edgar Allan Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, Annabel Lee, To Helen, The Raven, and The Bells

  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson, The Lady of Shalott, In Memoriam, The Eagle, and Crossing the Bar

  • Robert Browning, Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, My Last Duchess, Fra Lippo Lippi, and Dover Beach

  • Christina Rossetti, Song and A Better Resurrection

  • Gerald Manly Hopkins, God’s Grandeur, Windhover, and Pied Beauty

Unit 4

  • Immanuel Kant, What Is Enlightenment?

  • Galileo Galilei, The Sidereal Messenger, Letter to Benedetto Castelli, and Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina of Tuscany

  • Rene Descartes, Meditations

  • Sir Isaac Newton, Principia: Laws of Motion & Gravity and Principia: General Scholium

  • David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

  • Thomas Reid, An Inquiry into the Human Mind

  • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

  • Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

  • Anton Checkov, The Bet

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

  • C.S. Lewis, XMas and Christmas, De Descriptione Scriptorum, and On the Reading of Old Books

About the teacher

Ryan Griffiths Ryan Griffiths lives in Taylorville, Illinois and has a Master's degree in English from the University of Illinois. He has taught composition and critical reading to college freshmen, and enjoys English literature, creative writing, and film.