Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Unit rationale, description and aim

The teachers of Western culture, from Sophocles to Augustine to Bruegel to the authors of the Old and New Testaments, offer us diverse roads, or even impasses, to wisdom. 

This unit will direct students in the careful reading of a key text (or small set of texts) from the history of Western thinking. Such texts may be taken from a range of possible sources, from ancient wisdom traditions such as Stoicism, Judaism, and Christianity, to pivotal movements such as the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Students will encounter profound visions of human nature, happiness, meaning, and morality. 

This unit aims to hone students’ abilities in reading, interpretation, and research methods and provide practice in the art of raising exegetical and theoretical questions that can be turned into fruitful avenues of research. This unit also includes, as a hurdle task, an online module on working with, supporting and protecting children, young people and adults at risk. This hurdle task will focus on responding to concerns and developing strategies to keep ourselves and others safe. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Critically analyse and discuss some canonical visions of the human offered by some of the key philosophical, literary, artistic, and/or spiritual teachers of the Western tradition (GA1, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO2 - Discuss literary, social, historical, philosophical, political, aesthetic, and/or ethical ideas and movements that influenced and were expressed within selected wisdom texts (GA1, GA3, GA4, GA8)

LO3 - Locate, use, and appropriately reference a variety of critical sources relevant to developing coherent and consistent positions in relation to Western wisdom traditions (GA5, GA8, GA9)

LO4 - Learn, and apply graduate-level skills in research (GA4, GA5, GA8)

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics may include:

  • Conceptions of the good;
  • Desire and aversion;
  • Emotions and passions;
  • Happiness and transcendence;
  • Virtue and vice
  • Meaning and purpose 
  • Love, Beauty, Reason,
  • Madness, Folly, Despair

Research methods developed in this unit:

  • Active reading 
  • Interpretation of historical texts 
  • Selecting a research topic 
  • Mastering the methods of graduate-level research
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research Methodologies
  • Producing an annotated bibliography
  • Producing a prospectus
  • Planning an essay

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit will be taught to students in a small-group setting, in which the texts and thematic concerns of the unit can be discussed and debated in a supportive and inclusive manner. The small-group setting will facilitate the use of the ‘Socratic’ method, in which analytical discussion and dialogue are stimulated through the use of an engaging question-and-answer format to consider texts and ideas from the great wisdom traditions of the West. A substantial portion of class time will be devoted to carefully reading texts together and practising ‘active reading’ techniques such as considering contextual factors, exploring a variety of interpretations, and posing philosophical objections. Students will learn how to utilize slow and careful reading as a means of cultivating research topics and developing novel theses.

While the unit focuses on slow reading, the ‘Book’, however, should not be understood as limited to the written word, but rather as potentially including visual art and music. Moreover, ‘reading’ should be understood to involve the forms of close attention (such as listening or seeing) appropriate for such a great ‘book’. The unit will also emphasise that Indigenous Knowings offer a fundamental way to seek wisdom. Rather than surveying an expansive list of writings, students will sensitively read either one text, or a very small selection of texts, as a means of developing and refining essential skills. The unit will also include methods specifically pertaining to Indigenous research. Students will learn to consider a variety of relevant factors when engaging with a text, including historical context, intended audience, and literary genre, as well as the text’s reverberation in more than one discipline. This interdisciplinary approach will make students more adept at exploring a variety of interpretations and developing their own interpretive frameworks.

This is a 10-credit point unit and has been designed to ensure that the time needed to complete the required volume of learning to the requisite standard is approximately 150 hours in total across the semester. To achieve a passing standard in this unit, students will find it helpful to engage in the full range of learning activities and assessments utilised in this unit. The learning and teaching and assessment strategies include a range of approaches to support students’ learning such as reading, reflection, discussion, and writing.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete any hurdle requirements and complete tasks more specifically geared toward close reading, interpretation, and research methods.   

Given the heavy emphasis on reading, interpretation, and research methods, the assessment strategy is designed to require students to demonstrate both their ability to engage closely and slowly with a given text (LO1) as well as to view the text in its contexts and consider a variety of interpretive frameworks (LO2). Students will learn to wed these reading skills to novel research questions to develop their own arguments and interpretive frameworks (LO4). While written assignments will centre on a primary text, students will also be required to engage with relevant secondary sources in their essays both for background knowledge and as a basis for exegesis and interpretation (LO3).

The hurdle task is an online Child Safe module on working with vulnerable adults and children. This will provide information and scenarios that will ask students to demonstrate an understanding of the importance, policies and strategies for building safe and supportive environments for working with children, young people and vulnerable adults. 

The first task requires students to interpret an early set text in the unit and to present it orally to the group (supported by a written text of their own). Apart from serving the purpose of facilitating class discussion and introducing students to each other on an intellectual level early in the course, this task is designed to help develop analytical skills in oral communication, skills they will further refine throughout the course. The second task requires students to prepare a rigorous and thorough annotated bibliography. This annotated bibliography will serve as an opportunity to practise taking multiple interpretive frameworks seriously rather than unreflectively settling on an initial interpretation, and to demonstrate mastery of graduate-level research methods. The final task requires students to produce a research project pertaining to an interpretive question arising from their reading of the text. The research essay will incorporate secondary literature chosen on the basis of their own research and demonstrate mastery of graduate-level abilities in interpretation and research methods. This task will allow students to make use of their slow reading skills to arrive at a rich topic for investigation and defend their own position with arguments and evidence.

Minimum Achievement Standards

The assessment tasks and their weighting for this unit are designed to demonstrate achievement of each learning outcome. In order to pass this unit, students are required to submit all assessment tasks, meet the learning outcomes of the unit and achieve a minimum overall passing grade of 50%.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assessment Task 1: Close Interpretation

Requires students to produce a thoughtful interpretation of one of the assigned texts in order to demonstrate talent, skill, and expertise in the practice of ‘slow reading’.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 2: Research Methods: Annotated Bibliography

Requires students to produce an annotated bibliography in order to demonstrate graduate-level mastery of skills in research methods.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Assessment Task 3: Research Essay

Requires students to produce a graduate-level research essay building upon the Annotated Bibliography and pertaining to a text covered in the unit.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Hurdle Task: Child Safe online module

Online multiple-choice or short answer questions in 4 sub-modules.  Students will need to pass the first sub-module with a pass mark of 75% percent before progressing to the next sub-module. 

Note: Completion of this module does not exempt students from seeking a Working with Children Card or a Police Check where this is appropriate or mandated. 

Representative texts and references

The following is a list of representative texts and references. However, it would be a mistake to consider this list to be exhaustive. The list also indicates important instructions in research method and interpretation, since it is a vital aim of this unit to wed the close investigation of a text with a rigorous instruction in research methods and interpretation. 

Alter, Robert, Wisdom Books: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes: a Translation with Commentary (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011)

Hart, David Bentley, New Testament: A Translation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017)

Fagles, Robert, The Three Theban Plays: Antigone, Oedipus the King, Oedipus at Colonus (New York: Penguin Books, 1984)

Sheed, F. J., trans., Augustine: Confessions, 2nd edn (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2006)

Sellink, Manfred, Bruegel: The Complete Paintings, Drawings and Prints (London: The Classical Art Series, 2007)

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T Fitzgerald. The Craft of Research. 4th edn (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2016).

Byrne, D. Research Ethics (Los Angeles: Sage, 2016)

Hammond, M., and J.J. Wellington, Research Methods: The Key Concepts. 2nd edn (London & New York: Routledge. 2021)

Martin, K. L., Please Knock Before You Enter: Aboriginal Regulation of Outsiders and the Implications for Researchers (Teneriffe, QLD: Post Pressed, 2008)

McGregor, D., J. Restoule, and R. Johnston, Indigenous Research: Theories, Practices, and Relationships (Toronto: Canadian Scholars, 2018)

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Wortley, R., & Smallbone, S. (2006). Applying Situational Principles to Sexual Offenses Against Children. In R. Wortley, & S. Smallbone (Eds.). Situational prevention of child sexual abuse.  Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

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