Course Details and Setting
The 4-credit Humanities II course is required for all Geneseo students and satisfies SUNY's Western Civilization general education requirement. This limited-enrollment program, taught in Concord, Massachusetts, takes its inspiration from one of that town's most family residents: Henry David Thoreau. For students majoring in the sciences, for those with an interest in sustainable practices, and for those intrigued by Thoreau's vision of nature, our focus upon "green humanities" will include many experiential opportunities. Thoreau claimed he had "travelled a good deal in Concord," discovering that an open mind and willing spirit could find enormous riches within a small radius there.
Like Thoreau, Geneseo students will be able to walk from Concord's town center to Walden Pond, perhaps even reading his words amidst the natural scenery he celebrated. Some of the unique activities in this course are made possible through SUNY Geneseo's partnership with the Thoreau Society and the Walden Woods Project, both located near Walden Pond. Students use facilities made available through the generosity of these two organizations, such as Thoreau's birth house and the Thoreau Institute Library, and they participate in the Thoreau Society's Annual Gathering - which brings together scholars and enthusiasts from around the world for several days of conference presentations and other events.
Besides Thoreau, important authors and social reformers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller and Louisa May Alcott all lived and worked in Concord. The area remains at the forefront of environmental thought, and individualized course projects will encourage students to make use of its many resources: natural history museums, biremediation sites, alternative energies, sustainable agriculture - in short, meaningful engagement with some of the most challenging issues of our own times. The class also will feature field trips to downtown Boston, where colonial revolutionaries took actions derived from the words of John Locke's Second Treatise; and to the National Historical Park in Lowell, Massachusetts, to see examples of the factory system that galvanized intellectuals like Karl Marx.