The four-year interdisciplinary curriculum fosters the skills of critical reading, research, and effective written and oral communication while exploring the great questions that have animated human inquiry throughout history.


The First-Year Program – Encountering influential texts

The First-Year Program, Texts and Contexts, is a two-semester sequence which brings incoming students together as a community of learning to examine the big questions of how to live well in this world. For most of the year, the focus is on primary readings in literature, philosophy, ethics, and religion from the ancient world to the present day. Students learn to refine and express their ideas in a variety of arenas including, classroom discussion, academic writing, theatrical performance, and public debate.

Throughout the two-semester First-Year Program sequence students read selected works of history, literature, drama, philosophy, and religion and consider closely the ideas that have shaped a range of traditions. Ideas are explored in many ways––through critical reading and close analysis of texts; through careful research and focused expository and persuasive writing; through scholarly lectures, faculty-guided small group discussion among classmates, and formal public debate (Oxford Debates); and through creative dramatic and musical expression (First-Year Production).

  • Plato The Trial and Death of Socrates
  • Aeschylus II: The Oresteia
  • Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics
  • Genesis: Translation and Commentary
  • Confucius The Essential Analects
  • Mencius: Basic Writings
  • ​Xunzi: Basic Writings
  • Zhuangzi: Basic Writings
  • Saint Augustine Confessions
  • Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • ​Machiavelli The Prince

What does it mean to flourish as a human being?

That question guides the approach to the philosophical and religious texts Christ College students consider in Texts and Contexts I. Students engage texts directly, learning to interpret demanding material and discussing the reading with peers in small seminars four days a week. Once a week the entire first-year class gathers for a lecture, given by a member of the Christ College faculty or a scholar from outside the College who has special expertise in the subject matter. These lectures and question-and-answer sessions help students understand the historical context and milieu of a given text.

Weekly short writing assignments hone students’ ability to create compelling arguments in response to a text. Grades for the first semester are recorded as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” although professors give writing assignments “advisory” grades in traditional letter format to help students gauge their progress.

Participation in the The First-Year Production is an integral part of the Christ College First-Year Program. Preparation begins with a weekly drama lab; students then divide into teams dedicated to scriptwriting, music composition and performance, lighting, prop management, direction, and performance. The work culminates in the November staging of an original 90-minute theater piece, with music, inspired by ideas and texts students encounter in their Christ College coursework.

Texts and Contexts II begins with a cycle of close reading, discussion, and writing similar to the first semester’s, focused on modern questions about the relationship between individuals and society and individuals in society. Reading texts that include philosophy and literature, students concentrate on questions dealing with the nature of freedom, its limits, and conflicts that surround it.

In the final seven weeks of Texts and Contexts II, students choose from seminars on topics relevant to the larger themes of the course. Each student researches a problem formulated within the seminar and produces a substantial research paper. The research students conduct for this seminar sharpens their skills and ability to evaluate sources of information, and topic selection often leads to the discovery of lifelong, vocational interests.

Like the First-Year Production, the Oxford Debates are a much-anticipated public event that forms a critical part of the training of first-year students at Christ College. Four questions are researched and debated by eight teams of students (representing the pro and con side of each question).  Drawing on the importance of making carefully informed arguments, students first learn together about the topic at hand and divide into pro and con sides in the second half of the course. At the conclusion of each debate, the audience selects the winning team by voting for the most persuasive argument.

Participating in the Oxford Debates develops abilities in research and organization, speaking clearly and persuasively, evaluating evidence and making logical connections, and working cooperatively with others in pursuit of a common goal.


Experiencing approaches to knowledge

Requirements for graduation with a Christ College honors designation include a series of courses that introduce students to a variety of methods of inquiry into human cultural production and the natural world. These courses are typically, but not always, taken during the sophomore year. See Honors Designations for specific requirements.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors in Christ College are also expected to enroll in the Christ College Symposium, a monthly lecture series featuring distinguished scholars in conversation with the Christ College community.

A study of one or more major topics in the history of Christian thought, with attention to the ways that these topics have been addressed by the Scriptures, classics in theological discourse, and other significant writings.

A study of selected literary, philosophical, and religious texts, with special emphasis on the relationship of these texts to works of art. These classic texts are read, analyzed, and discussed in seminar settings, supplemented by discussions of visual images.

A study of principles of interpretation in the social sciences and relevant classic texts and theories. The course examines some basic interpretive problems using selected areas such as psychology, social theory, literature, anthropology, and history.


Achieving intellectual independence

During the third and fourth years in Christ College, students delve further into their academic interests, choosing from a variety of seminars that cover a wide range of topics. Students select research problems related to seminar topics and produce seminar papers. With permission, students may undertake independent research projects under the supervision of a faculty member.

A capstone senior colloquium is among several courses that focus attention on the student, calling for integration of the knowledge and skills acquired during the college career and preparing the student for the journey ahead.

See Honors Designations for specific requirements.

Each semester Christ College offers seminars dealing with themes of social, intellectual, cultural, spiritual, or artistic importance. These courses are often interdisciplinary in nature. Seminars may be cross-listed with academic departments in other colleges of the University. Seminars may be focused on topics, historical periods, or persons, but are not limited to these designations. Recent seminar titles include: “Literature at the Movies”; “The Scientific Endeavor”; “Consumer Culture”; “Media and Culture in East Asia”; “Human Rights: Politics, Ethics, Law”; “Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War”; “American Identities”; “The Devil and the Problem of Evil”; “Theology and Literature”; “Object, Ritual, Discourse”; “World Christianity”; “Medical Missions”; “Faith and Healing”.  

A course in the theory and practice of the liberal arts. Students in this course collaborate with instructors as tutorial assistants in CC 110. As students about to complete their undergraduate careers, seniors have an opportunity to return to some texts they read as freshmen, as well as some new texts, and reconsider them in light of their acquired skills and knowledge.

A capstone, integrative experience for seniors under the direction of Christ College deans in which students translate their college expereinces pragmatically–into resumes, personal statements, and interview topics–and reflectively–through autobiographical narrative that reflects upon the character and meaning of their work in Christ College and in what comes next.