Wissam Nuwayhed

The Civilization Studies Program (CVSP) is focused on particular texts coming from the Mediterranean, Europe and their geographical offshoots from the second millennium BC up until current times. Such 'oceanic' stretches of space and time can only be reconstructed in fractured form. With awareness of our intrinsically fragmented approach and access to such vast sweeps of intellectual history we try to breathe some sort of life into our constructions of the past knowing they will eventually give way to relentless rhythms of the crashing waves.

 

I teach CVSP 201 (Ancient Near East and Classical Civilizations) and CVSP 202 (Monotheistic Traditions). Both those classes cover isolated intellectual threads in an indefinite tapestry within a time-span that stretches from 2000 BC and ends in the 1300's AD in the lands around the Mediterranean sea. A vast interaction of myths and rituals encoded in Hesiod and Homer (with Virgil later), developed and broken with by the drama of Greek tragedians, contemplated and criticized by sharp reason of Plato and Aristotle and finally Plotinus's mystical contemplation. We observe a very partial image of a multidimensional Greco-Roman world of archaic sensoriums, magical emotional fields, mythical imaginal topographies, rational reasonable spaces and all the endless plural possibilities within each of the aforementioned dimensions. This Greco-Roman world interacts with an incommensurably multi-layered Near Eastern tradition with its own archaic, magical, mythical, rational and pluralistic fingerprints which it integrates in its own idiosyncratic ways. From the sensual, emotional and imaginal patterns of the Mesopotamian myths-cults as they is refract via Canaanite religious expression and later reformulation by the Hebrews into the proto-Judaic theologies, cosmologies, ethics and normative frameworks. This myth-cult current is later developed and changed in Christianity and Islam. These main three branches of the Abrahamic tree grow in simultaneous parallelism and interaction to one another and in parallel and interaction with the Greco-roman tradition (we do not focus on the Egyptian or Persian or Indian influx in the course). Hence a unique Abrahamic rationality begins to flourish as it reacts to itself and the other as is clear in the writings of Augustine, Ikhwan al-Safa, al-Ghazali, Maimonides, Ibn Rushd, Aquinas and Dante.

 

The intellectual dimension of the human experience is only a single leaf in the forest of the human encounter which is also military, political, racial, gender-based, social, familial, economic, physiological, geographical and so forth. Yet within this single leaf of the intellectual tradition there are endless kaleidoscopic worlds which we cannot fully become aware of. Therefore by choosing to focus on a very specific series of layered interactions within and across texts we hope to uncover some universal principles of intellectual contact that underlie particular intellectual interfaces.


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