Pompeiian fresco, 1st c. AD

SSP100.001: Democracy Inaction
M 2.30-3.25
W 1.00-2.20 F 1.25-2.20 (Lib 213)

Prof. Michael Arnush Starbuck 201D x8113
marnush@skidmore.edu Hours: M 11-12 F 10.30-11.30
Classics Department
Skidmore College
Class participation and attendance: 10%

Class participation is an active process and your grade depends upon your efforts to engage the material of this course and demonstrate that engagement over the course of the semester. That means both regular attendance and active participation in class discussions. You may take three unexcused absences over the course of the semester. Beyond those three, every absence will result in a lowering of one full grade for your final course grade. I equate showing up late for class with an unexcused absence; thus, it is your responsibility to come to class on time.

Participation means much more than just attending class: active engaged learning includes doing the reading on schedule, thinking about the issues the reading raises and formulating questions and comments, and then sharing those observations with the class. You can also participate in, or spur, discussion via email - another opportunity to voice your views. In order to earn the class participation grade, you need to participate regularly - i.e., weekly - in the class dialogue.

Please review the entire syllabus at the beginning of the semester and make sure you schedule no plane flights or any other travel that conflict with the requirements of the course. I shall make no exceptions for anyone in the Seminar - all due dates, and exams, are mandatory for successful completion of the course.

Short Essays: 30% (15% each essay)
You will write two short essays (1300 words each, or approximately four pages) during the first half of the semester. These exercises are designed to help you develop confidence both in your prose writing and in your ability to critique your own work and that of your peers.

In the first assignment, you will analyze an aspect of Greek democracy – specifically, the principles that guided the evolution of democracy in Greece, from the Homeric community to the age of Kleisthenes, when Athenian citizens participated routinely in legislative and judicial proceedings. This assignment asks you to focus on the literary and archaeological primary sources in your analysis, meet with me to discuss the rough draft, engage in a peer critiquing session in class and then hand in the final version.

The second assignment gives you the opportunity to examine the definition of leadership, as exemplified by Pericles in Athenian politics and life. Pericles, as a strategos elected by the Athenian demos, provided leadership for Athens for 30 years. His policies included reinforcing Athens’ walls and strengthening her navy; opening governance in the courts and in the arkhonship to more citizens; solidifying the league as an empire; imposing democracies on reluctant allies; adorning Athens with temples, civic buildings, and an overall vision for beautification; providing job opportunities for thousands of citizens. Many have argued that the Athenian "experiment," the golden age of Athens, could never have transpired without the leadership of Pericles.

Your essay can take many forms, but keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to articulate what you envision as an effective leader of ancient Athens. Were the decisions of Pericles wise ones that benefitted the community, or were they self-serving? Did he make decisions that strengthened his community? Did they lead to a better sense of Athenian identity? What were the risks, and costs, of such policies? What are the criteria the Athenians used for choosing leaders? Were these criteria effective, or should the Athenians have employed a different system? What did the Athenians seek in a leader, and for what reasons? And, to whom were their leaders leaders responsible? You need not address all of the questions raised here; indeed, feel free to raise your own questions about leadership.

The standard rules apply for both papers: a rough draft is a complete version of the paper, still in need of revision, but fully argued, supplemented with supporting evidence, appropriate citations, etc.; it should be 1300 words in length, paginated, double-spaced, 1" margins, 12-point type, stapled; it need have only your name, the name of the course and the date on the top of the first page. You will exchange drafts with one other colleague, subject your colleague's papers and your own to criticism (one in-class, one outside of class), consult with your peer mentor and/or a Writing Center tutor about your own paper, and then hand in the final version. In your critique, you will hold the draft to the highest standards - in terms of clear expository prose, proper use of sources, organization, and development of a thesis and argument.

Final Project: 40% (30% for the written project + 10% for the oral presentation)
In the final project (2200 words, or approximately 7 pages) you will examine your hometown's form of government and conduct an analysis of that local democratic system based upon the study of ancient and modern democracies. You will design the research component of this project individually, drawing upon readings and monuments from both ancient Greek and contemporary American local cultural horizons. The project will develop in stages, and each will earn a grade.

  • phase 1: thesis proposal
  • phase 2: introductory paragraph and working bibliography
  • phase 3: draft
  • phase 4: final draft. You will make a ten-minute presentation of your final project at the end of the semester Submission of the final draft will include a portfolio of all of the preliminary work that you have done on this project, so save all drafts.
The grade of each version will be based upon three core criteria:
  • clarity of expression – proper grammar, syntax, use of citations
  • organization – paragraph construction, transitions, and flow of argument
  • content – use and understanding of appropriate sources, and persuasiveness of argument
Examinations: 20%, 10% each
An in-class midterm exam will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your grasp of Athenian democratic practices, drawing upon both the readings and classroom discussions. A final exam on Dec. 20 will provide you the opportunity to demonstrate your grasp of all of the course's material.
Disability accommodations:
Any student with special needs requiring accommodations should give me his or her memo of accommodations in a timely manner. It is the student’s responsibility to follow up with me regarding all accommodations that require my participation. The student is advised to ensure full use of testing accommodations by coming to talk to me within the first two weeks of the semester. The Coordinator for Students with Disabilities is located in the Office of Student Academic Services. You can make an appointment with her by calling x5180.