Read the classics, live the classics

Janelle Cammenga–Staff Writer

Core 286, taught by Professor Walker Cosgrove and Professor Joshua Matthews, is more than a not-so-simple study of the great writers of the Italian renaissance.

firenze-florence-italy-europe-161376In January, the students will be traveling to Florence, Italy, in order to allow them to visit and experience the ideas and culture they are learning about from the classics in class. They will spend Jan. 4-8 touring Florence, staying together as a group in the mornings but letting students roam for the rest of the time. The class plans to visit a monastery and stay at an inn run by Italian nuns.

But it’s not all traveling and adventure. So far, they’ve spent most of their semester reading through Dante’s Divine Comedy, a difficult work full of discussion items.

“Without insights from Cosgrove and Matthews,” senior Alex Rexford said, “I and the entire class would have been very lost and confused.”

And Dante is just the beginning.

“The class is on some of the most important writer and artists in Western Civilization—and perhaps in world history,” Matthews said. Core 286 will be covering Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael (“Not the ninja turtles”) and Machiavelli, just to name a few.

Neither Matthews nor Cosgrove have co-taught a class before.

“It’s a fun experience,” Matthews said. “We can rely more on each other—in some ways, it feels like less work than teaching a normal class—and we are learning to play off each other.”

Students seem to be enjoying themselves just as much as the professors.

“Honestly, this is one of my favorite classes I have ever taken,” Rexford said. She cites small class size and open discussion as important factors. “Plus, having two professors who are friends teach this class is often hilarious!”

The original idea came was born when Matthews and Cosgrove first met. When they realized they had both studied and written on Dante, the idea started growing. In 2015, the concept picked up momentum when both men went to a week-long seminar on Dante at Sanford University. Afterward, the other professors at the seminar invited them on their class trip to Italy, so they could observe how teaching would work on the trip.

“From there, we figured out what the scope of the class could be,” Matthews said, “and how a trip to Florence, Italy, could help augment what students might learn in the classroom.”

Core 286 will likely be offered again in the fall of 2019.

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