In your first two years you will take a course called The Western Cultural Tradition. This is a four-semester, six-credit course, equal to two of the five courses BC students take each semester. It is taught in seminar fashion. Though individual instructors vary their reading lists, there is broad agreement about the central texts. The first year deals with the classical tradition. It begins with Greek literature and philosophy, Latin literature, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and continues through representative texts of the late Roman Empire and early Christianity, Thomas Aquinas, Dante, and medieval epic and romantic poetry and drama. The second year begins with Renaissance authors, continues with the religious and political theorists of the 17th century, the principal Enlightenment figures, the English and continental Romantics, major 19th-century writers such as Hegel and Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky and Nietzsche, and ends with the seminal cultural theories of Darwin and Marx and Freud.
In junior year you will take an advanced seminar called The 20th Century and the Tradition. This two-semester course (three credits each semester) draws on literature, visual art, science, philosophy, religion, political theory, historical events such as the Holocaust, and developments such as the globalization of the economy and of information technology, in order to examine how the 20th century has absorbed, criticized or reinterpreted the cultural tradition it inherited. The aim of the course is to complete the work begun in freshman and sophomore years, to equip you with a critical understanding of contemporary culture that will enable you to live thoughtfully and responsibly. If you study abroad in your junior year you will normally take this course in senior year.
In your final year you may choose either of two ways of finishing your work in the Program. You may write a senior thesis, which is ordinarily a six-credit enterprise, spread over two semesters. This may be a research or analytic monograph, or it may be a creative project involving performance in some medium. Students have written on topics as diverse as key words in the Russian text of Dostoevsky, the political organization of the European Community, a Massachusetts state senate campaign, the sons of alcoholic fathers, superconductivity, and the experience of open heart surgery. They have participated in original cancer research, and produced novels, dramas, operas, and electronic performance pieces. Most students do a thesis in the area of their major, under the direction of an advisor from their major department, but many like the challenge of working outside their own particular disciplines.
You may choose, instead, to take part in an integrative seminar where you will re-read certain key texts that you may have studied years earlier (Plato's Republic, for example) as a way of coming to understand your own experience of college education. The aim is to encourage you as a senior to rise above the specialized viewpoint of your major in order to grasp the interconnections among contemporary ways of thinking and the principles of value and behavior that have been guiding your development implicitly during your college years.