The Great Transformation (Senior Year Colloquium)

Steve Smith (smithsg) – Academic Complex 109F
Office hours & syllabus posted @
Home: 1611 Edgewood St, 601-354-2290

A Senior Year Colloquium
Religious Studies 4751-01
Fall 2017 (first half) T 7:00

Karen Armstrong argues in The Great Transformation (2006) that the classic philosophical and religious teachings of the Axial Age are in basic agreement and that the way forward for humanity is to renew that agreement. Others argue that the great teachings do not agree and that the current human situation is very different from that of 2,500 years ago. This senior colloquium will meet weekly till Fall Break to discuss readings on the issue.

Besides learning new ideas and arguments and developing our thinking and communicating skills as usual in a college class, a further purpose of this colloquium is consciously to gather our thoughts about how the state of our world and our own life prospects look in the light of everything we have studied in college.

The course grade will be based on class participation (50%) and weekly Discussion Papers (50%).

The required book on sale in the Millsaps bookstore is:

Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation

Depending on what comes up in our discussions, there may be a small amount of additional required reading in handouts or e-mails.

Revisions to this schedule may be announced in class or by e-mail.

Aug. 22 Introduction.

Aug. 29 READ Armstrong, Chaps. 1-2

Sept. 5   READ Armstrong, Chaps. 3-4

Sept. 12 READ Armstrong, Chaps. 5-6

Sept. 19 READ Armstrong, Chaps. 7-8

Sept. 26 READ Armstrong, Chap. 9

Oct. 3 Conclusion. READ Armstrong, Chap. 10


Starting Aug. 29, you are asked to bring to each class a 3 pp. paper (if typed double-space—i.e. about 900 words) in which you discuss the week’s reading both positively and critically.

Positively, you will attempt to draw out of the reading the ideas and arguments that are, you think, important and worth remembering.

Critically, you will attempt to identify the dubious or unhelpful elements in the week’s reading and/or you will pull in other considerations affecting what we should make of the reading.

These papers are a great learning tool for you and a crucial preparation for a good class discussion.


  1. Class attendance. Being in class, being engaged with the work of the class, and behaving courteously are all expected. One discourtesy to avoid is coming into class late. Better late than never, definitely; but lateness counts as half an absence. We have so few meetings for this class, and the class so profoundly is the meetings, that the absence penalty needs to be rather drastic: beyond one miss, a letter grade off for each further miss, unless you are kept away by illness for example and you have a make-up meeting with me. More sensibly, if you miss more than one meeting I would just urge you to drop the class.
  2. Electronic communication devices (phones, laptops, etc.). Electronic devices have become harmful Interrupters and Distracters in the current state of our social evolution—even when we use them with good academic intentions! Their use is banned in our class. If you have special needs, discuss with me.
  1. Late papers. Written assignments turned in late will lose a letter grade or equivalent. No work of any kind will be accepted after the fall semester’s last day of final examinations. Exceptions to this policy will be granted only to the victims of unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances.
  1. Plagiarism. Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledgment—that is, passing them off as your own—is a fraudulent practice called plagiarism. It also misses one of the main points of being in college, which is to develop your powers of thought and expression. Plagiarism is an offense under the Academic Honor Code (see next page).
  1. Incompletes. An “Incomplete” grade for the course will only be given to students who, due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances, find themselves unable to complete course requirements during the term and can reasonably be expected to complete them within a few weeks after the term’s end. The “Incomplete” must be requested and appropriately justified before the end of final examinations.
  1. Disabilities. Students with documented disabilities should discuss their needs with the instructor at the beginning of the semester.

From the ODS: If you have any needs or require accommodations related to a disability or learning difference, please contact Patrick Cooper to register with the Office of Disability Services. You can reach him via e-mail at or by calling extension 1228. Accommodations will not be granted until a meeting has taken place with Patrick, letters have been processed, and you have met with your instructor. 



Millsaps College is an academic community dedicated to the pursuit of scholarly inquiry and intellectual growth. The foundation of this community is a spirit of personal honesty and mutual trust. Through their Honor Code, the students of Millsaps College affirm their adherence to these basic ethical principles.

An Honor Code is not simply a set of rules and procedures governing students’ academic conduct. It is an opportunity to put personal responsibility and integrity into action. When students agree to abide by an Honor Code, they liberate themselves to pursue their academic goals in an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect.

The success of the Code depends on the support of each member of the community. Students and faculty alike commit themselves in their work to the principles of academic honesty. When they become aware of infractions, both students and faculty are obligated to report them to the Honor Council, which is responsible for enforcement. A representative, but not exhaustive, list of academic offenses and violations covered by the Millsaps Academic Honor Code is provided at:

The pledge signed by all students upon entering the College is as follows:

 As a Millsaps College student, I hereby affirm that I understand the Honor Code and am aware of its implications and of my responsibility to the Code. In the interests of expanding the atmosphere of respect and trust in the College, I promise to uphold the Honor Code and I will not tolerate dishonest behavior in myself or in others.

Each examination, quiz, or other assignment that is to be graded will carry the written pledge: “I hereby certify that I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this assignment. (Signature)” The abbreviation “Pledged” followed by the student’s signature has the same meaning and may be acceptable on assignments other than final examinations.

It is the responsibility of students and faculty to report offenses to the Honor Code Council in the form of a written report. This account must be signed, the accusation explained in as much detail as possible and submitted to the Dean of the College.

The Honor Council, 2017–2018

Students:                                                                      Faculty:

Patrick Davis, Chair                                                     Dr. Lynn Raley, Interim Faculty Chair

J. Hawkins, Vice-Chair                                                 Dr. Blakely Fender

Alycee Moity, Sergeant-at-Arms                                 Dr. Nathan Shrader

Lillian Lee Broussard

Emma Carter