Core Cultures Program

The Core Cultures Program, one of Hampden-Sydney College's core curriculum requirements, is a campus-wide, interdisciplinary course sequence that introduces students to two complementary approaches to understanding the human past.  The program encourages students to become aware about significant historical and cultural issues, explore the human condition and human civilization, and consider the "way we live now" through both Western and global cultural legacies.  Instructors who teach in the program come from multiple disciplines, including biology, classics, fine arts, government & foreign affairs, history, modern languages, philosophy, physics & astronomy, and religion.  The Core Cultures Program aims to help fulfill the college's mission by "promot[ing] an understanding of the world and our place in it."

Western Culture is a two-semester sequence that introduces students to the history, cultural achievements, and dilemmas of western civilization, from its roots in the early civilizations of the Middle East to the present day.  A variety of texts--literary, philosophic, theological, artistic--are examined.  Western Culture 101 covers the period from early human societies to 1500 through topics such as Hebrew culture, the Greek world, the Roman world, the rise of Christianity, the Middle Ages, the rise of Islam, and the Renaissance.  Western Culture 102 covers 1500 to the present day through topics such as the Protestant Reformation, Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Communism, the World Wars, post-colonial struggles, the changing role of women, and globalization.  Students will develop skills in critical thinking, analysis of primary and secondary sources, and written and oral defense of a thesis.  

Western Culture courses embrace the college's mission of "educating good men and good citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning" by using Western cultural heritage as a means for students to, among other things, reflect on the essential qualities of academic inquiry, the nature of humanity, and the concept of citizenship.

Global Cultures courses introduce students to global processes across time by comparing cultures across global regions and tracing common experiences.  The courses are thematically organized and contextually centered, and compare hierarchal structures, cultural frameworks, and regional and global networks from the beginning of human history to the present.  Also using a variety of texts, the courses emphasize how contingency and human agency have shaped the global past, how civilizations are mutable works in progress, and how texts serve as examples of authors writing within specific historical contexts.  Global Cultures 103 covers the period from the beginning of human history to 1500 and examines themes such as riverine cultures, ordering society, salvation religions, and intercultural networks of "Afro-Eurasia."  Global Cultures 104 covers 1500 to the present and examines themes like intercultural contact & commerce, colonization, the European revolutions, global reactions to modernity, and globalization.  

Twenty-first-century Hampden-Sydney graduates will increasingly encounter peoples and regions of the world far different from their own.  Global Cultures courses aim to provide a strong academic preparation to understand the historical context of such global interaction.  Global Cultures courses present a general introduction to the frameworks that shaped "the world."

Honor from Around the World

The Core Cultures Program in fall 2016 also offers an interdisciplinary seminar called "Honor from Around the World" that takes a principle that is familiar to Hampden-Sydney students and gives it a broader perspective.  It introduces the complexity and diversity of honor as it has been understood in different cultures, societies, and religions during a variety of historical periods.  Instructors from multiple disciplines present on topics including the problems of honor, honor in Congress, honor among world states, honor in Jane Austen, honor in Latin America, honor among samurai, honor among Arctic native people, and honor in Antigone.