The Core Texts Program is a two-semester course sequence—University Core Texts 101 and 102—taken by all Samford University students. In these courses students engage ideas that form a narrative of human learning. Here, they enter into a centuries-long conversation about the nature of the human condition, the meaning of justice, and our place in the cosmos. As a guiding theme for both courses, the fundamental questions of the Christian faith and its significance to our world shapes the center of the curriculum.
For books are more than books, they are the life, the very heart and core of ages past, the reason why men worked and died, the essence and quintessence of their lives. Marcus Tullius Cicero
Every culture seeks to explain human nature, the natural world, religion, and politics. The Core Texts Program ensures that our graduates understand this quest. Even more, it equips them to enter their chosen profession confident they are capable of meaningful critical thought.
The goal of this curriculum is not to teach students what to think, but to help them become more thoughtful people in whatever their present or future pursuits may be. While our curriculum emphasizes Western thinkers, we recognize that certain perennial themes pertain to every culture and civilization. To that end, our courses integrate texts from throughout Asia and the Global South. We engage the broader world with great intention, understanding that as an American institution of higher learning, we come from a particular place that carries with it a history of virtues and vices.
If our students are to be equipped for a vibrant future in our globally interconnected world, then they must first fulfill the biblical mandate to remove the plank from their own eye, making a careful and rich understanding of their intellectual heritage—with its many complexities—imperative to their future success.
The Core Texts Program emphasizes words from the past because we think they matter for the present. Four words in particular summarize our purpose: Quaestio, Disputatio, Fides, Ratio.
Inquiry, discussion, faith, and reason reveal what make us human. From its earliest inception, higher education pursued questions and answers that transmitted values from one generation to the next. Many contemporary college and university curriculums neglect this pursuit. Samford's Core Texts Program gives it primacy of place. We equip our students with an intellectual narrative that will help them navigate the modern world's complicated marketplace of ideas. Additionally, we connect that rich narrative to the Christian intellectual tradition so that students are better able to see faith and reason as interconnected parts of the human experience.
Our curriculum emphasizes the major works on which American higher education was founded. These are the ideas that continue to be debated with rich intellectual reward. We cherish the great writers and thinkers of the past, yet we also recognize that their wisdom must constantly be translated for a new generation.
For centuries reading great works of literature, history, philosophy, and theology served as an initiation into the life of a mature educated person. The mind and the soul were believed to share a relationship, and curriculums were designed to cultivate the moral reasoning skills required of civilized people. At Samford, we continue to value the transformative experience that comes from engaging significant ideas that shape our civilization and its values.
In the fall of 1997, Samford University introduced an entirely new Core Curriculum for its undergraduate programs. Referred to simply as "the Core," the new curriculum replaced an outdated and disparate list of general education requirements with an integrated course of study to be completed the first two years of college. This curriculum has become an essential part of Samford's undergraduate experience. It touches every aspect of university life by serving as the centripetal scholarly force uniting the humanities, the sciences, and the professional schools.
A general element of the Core Curriculum is University Core Texts (originally titled Cultural Perspectives), a two-semester introduction to the humanities. Under the founding leadership of Dean Rod Davis, Dr. John Mayfield, and Dr. Rosemary Fisk, Howard College faculty designed a curriculum that would introduce freshmen to their intellectual heritage and think critically about their place within it. As professors from many disciplines, they put their diversity to good use to create a course sequence that was interdisciplinary yet interconnected. To that end, Dr. Jason Wallace, who served as Core Texts director for more than a decade, structured the curriculum so that faculty could still teach to their individual strengths while all sections of University Core Texts still shared a common chronology and certain common texts.
During the first two years of the new curriculum, professors experimented with readings that complemented the common texts. Every section's list was different, yet certain works appeared consistently. At that point, it seemed advisable to bring these readings together in a shared sourcebook for the sake of convenience and cost. The sourcebook, our Samford Core Texts Reader, is a two-volume collection of materials that can be used in class, in research projects, and for personal enlightenment. While these collections represent a fragment of the thousands of documents that have shaped our culture, they are also a foundational starting point for our common conversation about the Western and Christian intellectual traditions.
The Core Texts Program offers a number of opportunities that encourage students' intellectual development in their first year of college:
- An entire academic year studying great works of literature, philosophy, history, and theology
- Small conversational class sizes
- Published professors who model the writing and reasoning skills they are teaching
- Study abroad opportunities in Athens, Rome, and London
- Public events reflecting the themes of the program; and
Core Texts In London
Each fall semester, faculty nominate the top students from their classes to participate in the London Core Texts Program held every July. This unique two-week experience allows talented and ambitious students an opportunity to study important authors and see famous sites from English history and literature while staying at Samford University's London residence, The Daniel House.
Classics Trips to Athens and Rome
The Core Texts Program helps to identify and encourage first-year students who would like to participate in the Classics & Philosophy Department trips to Athens and Rome. Each May term, the Classics & Philosophy Department annually alternates a spectacular three-week educational experience in Greece and Italy where students can experience the cultures that gave us the foundational literature of Western civilization.
Fall semester, students are introduced to great thinkers from the Greeks, the Romans, Early Christianity, the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. Central texts include:
Greece and the Ancient World
- Homer, The Iliad
- Greek Tragedy: Aeschylus, Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes
- Herodotus, Histories
- Plato, Republic, Death of Socrates
- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics
Rome and Early Christianity
- Vergil, The Aeneid
- Cicero, Defense Speeches
- Seneca, Selected Letters
- Augustine, Confessions, The City of God
- The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas
- Benedict of Nursia, Rule of Saint Benedict
- Selections from The Quran
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica
- Marie de France, The Lais
- Julian of Norwich, Revelations
- Dante, The Divine Comedy
Renaissance and European Exploration
- Christine de Pizan, City of Ladies
- Shakespeare, sonnets or a play selected by the professor
- Pico de Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man
- Popul Vu
- Bernardino de Sahagun, Florentine Codex
101 Asian World Core Texts
- Confucius, The Analects
- Siddhartha Gautama, The Path to Enlightenment
- Buddhist Nuns, Therigatha
- Lao Tzu, Tao-te Ching
Spring semester takes them through the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the ideological foment of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Central texts include:
- Martin Luther, Freedom of A Christian
- John Calvin, Institutes of The Christian Religion
- Ignatius Loyola, Autobiography, Spiritual Exercises
- Margaret Fell, Women Speaking
- Galileo Galilei, Letter to The Grand Duchess Christina
- Rene Descartes, Discourse on Method
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
- John Locke, Second Treatise On Government
- Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract
- Thomas Paine, Common Sense, Age of Reason
- Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of The Rights of Woman
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
- Karl Marx, Communist Manifesto
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments
- Frederick Douglass, The Meaning of the Fourth of July to the Negro
- Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals
- A novel and/or poetry selected by the professor
- E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folks
- Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
- Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents
- Gandhi, selected writings
- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
- Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
- Edward Said, Orientalism
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart
- A novel and/or poetry selected by the professor