HUM 130 - Major Works in the Humanities

Welcome to the course.

This syllabus defines course objectives, learning activities, requirements, and grading policies. If anything is still unclear, come see me in the office—my hours are conveniently located right after class, and my office is in HUM 530.

Here are my Teaching Policies and Mark Policies.

Student Survey

To begin, all students are to complete an assessment survey of their preparation and their needs. You aren't expected to have read or seen many of these works, so although the survey looks long, it's quick to complete. Instructions are on it. Click here for the survey

DEADLINE: one week from our next class.

My IT expert set it up so that there's a record of everybody who submitted the survey, although your name is not paired with your answer. Otherwise I wouldn't know who didn't bother to do it.

Self-Guided Museum Assignments

These self-guided museum trips are due before the course begins. Go to our iLearn site and find this assignment.

Student on self-guided museum visit

Student on self-guided museum visit

Course Objectives

In college we don’t give you an education. We teach you how to keep educating yourself for the rest of your life. That’s why college graduates earn nearly three times as much as people who haven’t had this kind of training. College grads know how to keep up with the world, how to keep learning, evolving and adapting. Each course should equip you to keep educating yourself in a specific subject. By the end of the course, you won’t know everything, but you should know enough to keep learning about it on your own.

This course’s objective is to teach you enough, in one semester, to enable you to keep learning about literature, painting, poetry and film the rest of your life. Each of the course’s extremely varied learning activities (lectures, group readings, slide lectures, selections from great films, museum visits) have been selected because they were keys that would make it possible for you to open the greatest number of doors later.

But HUM 130 chooses its topics for a unique reason. This course’s most important, and very practical objective is helping SFSU students break the “glass ceiling” after they graduate. Everyone acknowledges the obstacle that race is, in American life. The forbidden topic in American life is “class.” This is still a “class” society. At some point certain people get hired or promoted—and others bump their head against the “glass ceiling” without knowing why. Nobody wants to explain that you’re supposed to be able to recognize a reference to certain classic movies, books, and painters.

You’re supposed to get the joke when people make a joke using a phrase from the film Casablanca. You’re supposed to have been to London or Europe at least once. If your team leader at the start-up says the client is in a suite at the Marriott, so let’s get coffee at MOMA first before we go up, god help you if you say “What’s... Moe-muh?” In HUM 130, I do not send you to museums to make you art historians. I want you to know your way around a museum because the museums are no longer about art, they’ve become social clubs for the white collar class, convenient bases downtown with swanky restaurants, snobby coffee bars, enormous gift shops If you’re not a member, at least you’re supposed to have been. “Class.” Now, what in the world does that have to do with whether you can do the job? These little social tests are absolutely superficial—and absolutely real. This course, like my HUM 130 and HUM 407, aims at helping you compete with private school types after getting your degree. This is a very practical course for SFSU students. I’ve taught here 29 years, have written countless job recommendations, and I know what I’m talking about.

The good news about preparing to break the glass ceiling is that it’s exciting and enjoyable. You’ll like the art museums and you’ll love Bogart in Casablanca.

Creating experiences which further learning

You’ll notice that SFSU’s course evaluations very intelligently do not say, “were there interesting lectures,” but “did the professor create experiences which furthered your learning.” This course uses every means of creating experiences—trips, slides, films, the works.

CAUTION. You do not have to take Prof. Leonard's section of this course.

The professor teaches in the world's oldest continuous teaching tradition—the Funny Jewish Professor (If you're not familiar with this tradition: I am not here to amuse you. You are here to laugh at my jokes.) Take a look at two modern masters of this tradition, Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. Would you find this interesting—or too intense, or obscene or unpleasant? Is this really the course for you? You do not have to choose this course.

Lenny, film, starring Dustin Hoffman, 1974, trailer

Richard Pryor mafia joke

Many students in class have taken Leonard's other classes, sometimes all his classes, and they help him do his skits and shtick, the way Jimmy Kimmel’s “second bananas” standing on the side of the stage help him. They get extra credit for their help. Some of them have written gags for him to use. If you, however, are new to this ancient teaching method, and don’t want to participate in helping the professor create a “learning experience” involving humor, just tell him, and avoid sitting in the front row. If you have no sense of humor at all, you won’t enjoy this class, and should look for another.

Take a second look at the substantial reading list before you commit to this course. I reserve the right to announce at least two other books, too, which are cheaper for you to buy online or download as eBooks than to buy in our book store.

There's now three museum trips, two on your own before classes start (De Young Museum; Asian Art) and another one when I lecture at the Asian Art, on a Saturday afternoon, probably October 3. (Most everybody in this class has a job of some kind, and they make it to the museum anyway. I mark on effort.)

You're really going to learn a lot, by the end. This is an ambitious course. You do not have to use it to satisfy the requirement, there are other courses and there will be other semesters. The other sections are all less work than this one. And the teachers are excellent— I know, I trained five or six of them. They were my favorite students.

Everybody, no matter what year you're in, should think it over. I don't have enough seats for the serious, practical people who really want to challenge themselves, and break the Glass Ceiling later. I'm not going to use up seats or time on people just looking for three points or a fun course. I'll be making notes the first night about who is handing in museum tickets, even membership receipts— who is really psyched, and who isn't.

You've got to really be into it, because the professor is. If you can't make an answering effort, come back and take the course when you can. If you're stressed out for time this term, and have to slide by somewhere, for godssake don't try to do it here. I'm working really hard and if I'm up there performing like Bruce or Pryor and I suddenly realize you're texting under the desk, I will call you out on it right then and there. No fooling. I'm an old-school professor who really cares; and you may not actually want that. Don't come. You'll stick out.

My courses attract the most serious, practical students, people who want to jump-start their college career with an intense experience that is going to transform them. SF isn't a city one just moves to, like, say, Cleveland. SF is a city that people run away to. And those people, when they ran away to SF, often had on the back of their mind, "Learn what Zen is, what is mysticism. Find out what the big deal is about Van Gogh or Michelangelo. Become someone who can hold his/her own in any damn conversation, without feeling people are talking over my head. Be able to talk over their heads!"

And then later collect all the practical, financial/social class real-world rewards that follow that kind of personal power. It is suprisingly practical to learn all these cultural things. "Class."

But don't get into this lightly. I don't want anybody getting hurt in here. You'll stick out as if you casually took an advanced Chem course with a bunch of fire-breathing pre-meds. My students typically chose San Francisco State hoping to take exactly my kind of course.

If, after reading this, you choose to stay in the course, it was your choice and you knew what you were getting into. And welcome. You're somebody I want to teach and I'm going to give you one hell of a course. You're going to be a stronger person afterwards.

Course Organization

Though I cannot specify exactly which day we will study a topic until I have read your Surveys and your personal biographies (each new group of students has different interests) and I reserve the right to cut topics or even books, depending on what’s working this year, here is the order you can normally expect. Browse through our Johnson textbook and you’ll get the feel of it.

“What is the Glass Ceiling and why are these our Course objectives: Working Girl” Homer’s Iliad, Dante’s Inferno, TS Eliot’s Waste Land, Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca, my Saurday lecture on Zen and mysticism at the Asian Art Museum, Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, George Orwell, Classical Art, Medieval Art, Renaissance Art, the Impressionist Revolution in Art, Van Gogh, 20th Century art through Pollock, John Cage, Warhol and Pop.

Once again: the class always catches fire on some topic and I stay with it longer. Not all of the above names may get in our course this term. That will depend on your interests. So fill out that Survey, and start showing me what you want to study most.

Required Reading and First Assignments

Get the Kindle version of Break Your Writer's Block, a writer's guide prepared for SFSU by Prof. Leonard. Do not get the older print version. The Kindle version is cheaper, anyway, and I've updated it. To read a Kindle book, you don't need an actual Kindle device from Amazon. You can read it on a physical device, like your iPad, your smartphone, or your Mac or PC at home. You can even use any computer on campus or elsewhere if you use Amazon's Cloud Reader. You just need an Amazon customer account.

In class, though, we use only print editions, no eBooks. They’re on the shelf together in the bookstore, and listed on the University’s page for this course, as well as mentioned below.

The University of Chicago Press has raised the price of the paperback version of my book on the figures in this course to nearly $25. I am substituting an inexpensive Kindle “course reader,” replacing it for $10, and free if you have Kindle Unlimited I was able to insert into the course reader lecture notes on John Constable, a central figure in this course. It’s called From Humanism to Mysticism, and it will be used with the museum visit, as well as all the art lectures.

Buy exactly the editions of the books below that are specified. They’re in the bookstore on the shelf for our course. Translations of works are so different that you’ll be hopelessly lost. You’re not allowed to use iPhones and screens in class, remember. Bring your paperback books to class. We often start in small groups, reading certain passages aloud to each other. If you don’t have your book, I’ll see that as I walk around, and I will call you out on it. I mark on effort, remember, so go ahead and show me that you didn’t even care enough to buy the book I assigned. See how that works out.

Homer, Iliad, Lattimore translation
Dante, The Inferno, Martinez and Durling translation, Oxford UP 1996
TS Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems
Orwell, 1984
Leonard, From Humanism to Mysticism (Kindle)
Leonard, Break Your Writers Block (Kindle)

The Iliad, by Homer

The Richmond Lattimore translation. Or any printed translation. I'm assigning it this way, instead of at the bookstore, to save you money. There are a million used copies on Amazon. Start reading the Homer now! Start by reading pp 12-17 in the Introduction. Great summaries of the work, and it answers all the basic questions. Once you're past the complicated first chapter it gets easy, a great action story full of blood and guts, but it's long. Get the first chapter read by Day One. We start with this.

Believe it or not, there's a Brad Pitt movie based on it -- and it's not bad at all!

Brad Pitt as the superhuman Akhilleus in Wolfgang Petersen's TROY really caught the feeling of it. Not bad! Would have been even better if Jolie had been Helen. Take a look at some of TROY on Youtube to picture it. If you have Netflix, rent it. And of course, libraries will have it, free.

Book 1: Read all of Book One, getting to know the characters. It helps to look up, on You Tube, the surprisingly good Brad Pitt flick, TROY. He's a fine Akhilleus, someone larger than life. You can picture the characters better. That film isn't the Iliad, though. It uses pieces from all the Trojan War legends, not just from the Iliad. The excessive rage of Akhilleus is not slaughtering too many people -- that's later -- this first time it is his refusal to fight for his comrades, from hurt pride. The Iliad is no simple antiwar work. It shows both sides of every question. Notice that an old man is turned away by Agamemnon, who had been pleading to have his daughter back-- an absence of pity, an inhuman act which angers the gods themselves. It brings on the catastrophe. Connect that with Akhilleus finally finding pity for an old man pleading for his son's body at the end of the Iliad.

Book 2, lines 394-7, the "Homeric simile." Lines 493-510, an "Homeric catalog."

Book 3: 153-180 Helen is described and describes herself.

Book 7: 150-325 Single combat in the "heroic age" A very different culture.

Book 8: 145-350 The values of the heroic age. Wild combat scene. Notice 306-9, the famous simile. Could a blind poet have written that? 550-565 epic grandeur from the simile.

Book 9: 307-375 Akhilleus starts to suspect they're dupes of their heroic code, and vents his famous rage and pride. The book said, in the first line, that his overpowering anger is its subject. Its power over human reason is a major topic of the book 643-648 676-700.

Book 10 A short book, famous for the violence and murder. Read all. Focus on 445-500.

Book 11: 90-300 Agamemnon proves his prowess. Famous killing spree, and it's reported with the awe now given someone like Kobe Bryant scoring 60 points in a game. 434-591 Odysseus saved by Aias (Ajax) a giant Shaq-like figure. Famous and somehow charming scene. **785-845 In this dark hour for the Greeks, Nestor, the old timer, comes up with the scheme for Patroklos to wear Akhilleus's armor to inspire the Greeks and scare back the Trojans.

Book 14: 388-520 Wild battle scenes. So primitive they throw rocks. Grotesque deaths.

Book 16: 1-130 ** Patroklos gets the armor, just as the camp is almost burned down. 780-866 Patroklos gets himself killed, since Hektor thinks he's Akhilleus and goes for him.

Book 18:**** Akhilleus hears his friend is dead. His mother warns him that his death must follow Hektor's. Akhilleus accepts the blame, accepts his death, refuses to spare Hektor. The tragic decision: to do the right thing, though it costs you everything. See his great speech on 95-127 in particular.

Book 18: 368-615** The gods themselves make a shield for Akhilleus. It has all of human life pictured on it. Famously balanced and objective. "Homer saw life steadily and saw it whole."

Book 20: 380-505 Akhilleus slaughters the Trojans. He's inhuman, a force like fire.

Book 21: 1-360 The rage and the slaughter. The river itself revolts. Nature is horrified.

Book 22: 260-435 Hektor's death. Akhilleus overdoes it, violates traditions.

Book 24: 1-140 Akhilleus gives up on this orgy of useless revenge. 480-680** Priam asks for his son's body 505-517 Akhilleus feels human pity for the first time. The climax of the story. 760-808 the end. Helen speaks (and it's all self-pity, as ever).

Dante, The Inferno

Martinez and Durling translation, Oxford University Press, 1996. If you have any Spanish at all, you'll discover you can follow quite a bit of the great Italian verse, with the English as a guide for you! You'll hear the full beauty of it. BTW, if you have any Spanish, think about doing a Junior year semester abroad in Italy (you'll learn the language in three days-- I did) using our great Study Abroad program. Doesn't cost any more than going to SFSU and living here.

There will be a quiz, which will simply involve recognizing a reference to Dante’s Inferno. As you read, be sure you can answer these:

Complete phrases or supply answer:
1. Inferno starts, "In the middle of..."
2. His guide, personifying his Reason, is...
3. Dante’s muse, who sent his guide, is...
4. The inscription over the Gate to Hell is famous. Give me the first three lines of Canto 3 as number 4, 5, and 6.
5. Line 2 of Canto 3
6. Line 3 of Canto 3
7. Famous last line: Abandon all hope...
8. The punishments reflect the way sin punishes people in real life. People who are blown about by their passions appear how, in Canto 5, lines 37-43? Summarize.
9. In this Canto Dante interviews which romantic woman sinner? One of his most famous character sketches.
10. In Canto 32-3 Ugolino describes how Ruggieri ordered him and his sons starved to death. What awful event happened next as a result?
11. How does Ugolino punish Ruggieri through eternity?
12. The bottom of Hell is frozen. How is Satan positioned?
13. Treachery makes every crime worse. Who is so evil he must spend Eternity being chewed inside Satan’s mouth?
14. What do Dante and Virgil have to do with Satan to exit Hell?
15. Dante, escaping, sees, in the last line, what beautiful thing?

The Waste Land, by TS Eliot (1888-1965) AND "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

The Iliad was poetry. The Inferno was poetry. Yet they're obviously completely different from almost all of what we call poetry now. The Iliad and The Inferno are like novels told in verse, by comparison. When did the change take place here?

Almost all contemporary poetry goes back to a poem published nearly a hundred years ago by T.S. Eliot, the most famous and most influential 20th century poet. This kind of poetry later made the jump into pop music though John Lennon's and Bob Dylan's immense influence. We must have this one revolutionary 1922 poem, The Waste Land, which became the foundation of all modern poetry, then of rock lyrics since the Sixties. In the Sixties Bob Dylan and John Lennon adapted Eliot’s kind of poetry to rock, and by now most of the songs you like best can be traced back to the breakthrough by Eliot, transmitted by Dylan and the Beatles.

Here's that original poem, The Waste Land. It's written by a broken young man living in the rubble of European Civilization after World War I, which Europe never really recovered from.

You can't call yourself an educated person, let alone a Humanities major, unless you've read it. It'll take you about twenty minutes. You're used to this sort of poetry by now. You grew up on it. Don't try to make sense of it at first. Don't stop to read the notes-- just let the sounds and images hit you, and the emotions happen. Later you can look at Eliot's rather unhelpful "notes" published at the end. Almost as famous is his earlier poem, self-mockery by a dorky young guy guy so educated, well-bred and polite he can’t get up the guts to approach a woman, and hates himself for it. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

There will be a quiz, which will involve recognizing a reference to TS Eliot, and knowing one of his famous lines.

Complete these phrases from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock:
1. To prepare a face...
2. Time to murder and...
3. Do I dare disturb...
4. I should have been a pair of ragged...
5. I grow old. I grow old/ I shall wear the bottom...
6. I have heard the mermaids...
7. I do not think...

Complete these phrases from The Waste Land:
1. April is...
2. Unreal...
3. I had not thought death...
4. I remember, Those are pearls...
5. (Last three words of the poem are...)

One more endlessly quoted Eliot line to learn:
"This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper."

From "The Hollow Men."

This is the way the world ends,
1 shantih shantih shantih.
2 not with a bang but a boom
3 not with a bang but with a whimper
4 in Christ our Lord. Amen.

George Orwell: 1984

Orwell is our next major stop. The publishers have palmed off a new edition ("Centennial edition") with new page numbers to make it impossible to buy used books. READ THE FIRST 70 PAGES of the novel and the essay at the back on "Newspeak." I'll post here, or hand out, the new page numbers to concentrate on as soon as I know them. For class discussion and test purposes, as you read, be sure you can identify or explain the following: Big Brother, the slogans on his poster, the memory hole, the telescreen, newspeak, duck speak, why sex is a crime against the state, who Winston, Julia and O'Brien are, Inner Party, Outer Party, Proles, Ministry of Love (an "Orwellian inversion") the Two Minute Hate, the Anti-Sex League, doublethink, and why Winston says everything depends on being able to say that 2 + 2 = 4.

Why you must know 1984:

Orwell's 1984 has become, I believe, the single most assigned book from the 20th century. Even a cruddy "reality" show like "Big Brother" counted on you to know a little about 1984 and know what was being implied. We'll read it for those concepts, and for the Newspeak vocabulary.

The book will be easier if you read first the general essay on Newspeak at the end. Concentrate on what he says about the "B vocabulary" and the motive for getting rid of words which get in Big Brother's way.

Lefthand numbers are the Signet Classic edition/ Righthand are Centennial edition

51Big Brother's poster
62telescreen, Thought Police
72-3The three slogans of the Party. "Orwellian inversions"
129-10Julia (the girl) and O'Brien, the Inner Party and Outer Party, the Two Minute Hate lasts the next few pages. Notice "thoughtcrime."
1310Goldstein, the official Enemy (cf. Snowball in Animal Farm). Newspeak, duckspeak
36-39 the Memory Hole
4652How Newspeak works
57-6264-69why sex is a crime; he finds the evidence; the Proles
6980two plus two equals four
79-83104-111Mr Charrington and their room
88-93104-108Julia, the affair, the antisex league
103-105124-127the affair, and the paradise of privacy
110-119133-143Julia and why the Party hates sex; "home" = "privacy"
129156"a rebel from the waist downwards" he tells her of the evidence of the Brotherhood
166-167 how history works
176-185 doublethink, Orwellian language, Julia and Winston captured
201-213243-253the torture 2 plus 2 "how many fingers?"
243-245296-299"He loved Big Brother"
249-256298-300on Newspeak-- particularly the B vocabulary and the motive

With 1984, we watch:

ANIMATED FILM: George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM. Long before there were serious "anime" this cartoon version of Orwell's Animal Farm was a classic. An excellent companion to 1984.

Museum Fieldwork Assignment

Note: This year we’ll go to the new San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Look at our iLearn site. Detailed information about where to meet there and when, will be posted when SFMOMA approves free admission for you.

Prof. Leonard lecturing in museum

What is this professor like?

I'm a working author and have to have a professional website. You can browse through my books here on my website and decide if my interests are similar to yours.

An old, but accurate, interview which shows how the professor's interests fit together: David Carrier Interview

Dated, but accurate -- lists books about Prof. Leonard's work, including ones critical of him. Note: 2015 was Prof. Leonard's 43th anniversary as a college professor. About Dr. Leonard

Course Evaluations

During the past twenty-nine years over 7000 students have, after Prof. Leonard's classes, filled out anonymous computer evaluations administered by SFSU, given to the professor only after the marks have been mailed. They are kept on departmental file. In answer to ten specific questions like "Was his grading fair?" "Was he available at stated office hours?" "Did he know his subject?" and so on, replies have averaged, with amazing consistency, about 80% "excellents", 17 percent "very goods," with 1 percent "good," 1 percent "poor" 1 percent "no opinion."

Here are all the optional anonymous written comments in full (both positive and negative comments) exactly as written, added to computer forms in last evaluation. They’re amazingly consistent. The references to preferring a Full Professor like myself to the grad students that Freshmen usually get are striking. I give up my graduate course to teach this class every year, though the University wishes I wouldn’t. I cost 3.5 times what a grad student costs. But I think Freshmen and Sophomores deserve it.

Spring 2015 Responses

Please comment further on this instructor's teaching effectiveness, using specific examples where possible.