Prof. David Eckel welcomed the class of 2015 at the start of yesterday’s CC101 lecture, inviting them to think about what it means to succeed in college and in the Core Curriculum. he suggested that our challenge is to “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange”:
If the books seem familiar to you, ask yourself, “What’s strange about them?” And if they seem strange, ask: “What is in them that speaks to us, in a language we can understand?” How do these books challenge us to think differently about the past, and to think differently about ourselves?
Following Prof. Eckel’s Director’s welcome, Prof. Stephanie Nelson — first-year Humanities coordinator for AY2011-2 — briefly laid out the structure of the Core Humanities, and offered six simple words for success in Core: “Come to class. Read the books.” She credited this mantra to Prof. Brian Jorgensen, the Director of the Core at the time of its founding more than 20 years ago, and yesterday’s lecturer on the Epic of Gilgamesh.
In my view, Prof. Jorgensen’s lecture served to deepen the students’ understanding of the work, to inform their seminar discussions, and to place the work in the constellation of works that make up the curriculum of the Core. I have been told that this inaugural lecture and its attendant images of the “ultimate journey beyond human limits” has been an essential introduction to the Core experience over the many years Prof. Jorgensen has been asked to deliver it. I can see why — yesterday in his talk, he brought the human drama of this ancient tale directly to the fore, drawing out the irrepressible question: “Why did my friend die, why must I die, why?” An answer to this question, Prof. Jorgensen suggested, is the true aim of Gilgamesh’s quest for “the one principle beyond everything”.
Prof. Jorgensen put things in perspective this way: “The story of a hero’s ultimate journey” has been “on the mind of human beings about ten times as long as the United States has been around.” The great age of this text suggests its great value, both as a story to be explored, and as a cultural foundation for one’s educational journey through the Core, and BU, and beyond.
Core student employee Tom Farndon (CAS/SMG ’12) wrote this lecture report for the Core blog; his fellow employee Logan Gowdey (CAS ‘ 12) contributed to it as well. CC101 students will find an mp3 recording of yesterday’s speakers available for download at the course homepage.