Trinity College Courses

Trinity offers several College courses intended to enhance the academic role the College plays in the lives of its undergraduates, especially its first-year students. These are credit courses approved by the Faculty of Arts and Science and do not have prerequisites.

Why Take a Trinity College Course?

  • participate actively in small-group discussions;
  • learn to think critically and to communicate clearly;
  • study with Trinity faculty - scholars with a strong interest in teaching first-year students;
  • get to know other Trinity students and build a "home" base within the College and the University.

Seminar Courses for 2014-15

CCR 199Y1Y  The Vikings and their Descendants

The Scandinavian pirates known as ‘the Vikings’ first entered the annals of recorded history late in the eighth century.  The impression that they made on the civilized peoples whom they encountered was decidedly negative:  Vikings were depicted by many of their contemporaries as bloodthirsty pagans, ferocious and crafty warriors with a diabolical ability to raid and pillage nearly anywhere throughout the then-known world.  Although the brutality of Viking raids is undeniable, modern scholars of the Early Middle Ages have developed more nuanced perspectives on the Vikings by studying the characteristics of their material culture, the poetic and memorial texts that they inscribed on their monuments or recited in their halls, and by evaluating their accomplishments as explorers, pioneers and agents of inter-cultural commerce.  The legacy of the Vikings’ activities can not only be traced in the historical development of present-day Scandinavian nations, but is also part of the heritage of the peoples of Britain, continental Europe, the Mideast and even the Atlantic coast of Canada.  Aspects of Viking culture have—for better and worse—inspired artists, writers, composers, intellectuals, explorers and even politicians in the centuries since the last longship sailed, and images of the Viking persist in present-day literature, art, music, sport and popular culture.  This course explores the history, cultures and literatures of the Viking Age, and considers how (and why) the Viking past remains part of present culture.

CCR 199Y1Y  More than Just a Dinner Party: High Style and Serious Attitude in the Literary Salon of 1830s Paris

Money, Love, Heroism, the Occult, War, Revolution, Royalism and Opium; such were the variety of subjects explored in a literary salon in Paris around the year 1830. In an age of uncertainty (the Napoleonic Age over, the restored Monarchy faltering under a mad king), a generation of writers, artists and musicians was searching for meaning. Several met regularly in the elegant drawing room of the Arsenal library in Paris, creating what is called a salon. Along with exquisite food, music and dance, they took a steady diet of wit, debate, humour and passion. We will explore their works as well as the literature, music and art of those who inspired them. Victor Hugo, Balzac, Stendhal, a young Franz Liszt, the artists Delacroix and David d’Angers all had attended. Finding inspiration in Byron’s poetry, Hoffmann’s tales, Goethe’s and Scott’s legendary works and the music of Berlioz and Chopin, their ideas about artistic style and conviction have influenced Western culture to this day. Readings are in English or English translation.

TBB 199H1F  The Age of Love: An Invitation to Medieval Culture

How do human beings respond when it feels like their world is falling apart?  The complex culture that we call “medieval” (c.500–c.1500) arose out of the ruins of the late Roman Empire.  The medieval response to the passing away of all that seemed good and civilized can be traced through three paths, each emphasizing different virtues:  the way of the warrior (strength and courage), the way of the monk (humility and renunciation), and the way of the philosopher (learning and reason).  This course will examine representative writers from each of these strands, exploring how these three ways converged, despite the reality of violence and apparent futility, in a vision of love as the path of true human fulfilment.  We will begin with two foundational texts written in the midst of the Roman collapse:  the Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (d. c.524), the principal source for medieval philosophy; and the roughly contemporary Rule of St. Benedict, the principal text for western monasticism.  A study of the “way of the warrior” (and the related culture of feudalism) will focus on the career and literary afterlife of Charlemagne.  We will then move to the twelfth century, when all three strands begin to converge on “love” as a supreme value:  in war, the romances of Chretien de Troyes; in monasticism, the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux; and in philosophy, the career of Peter Abelard and his lover Heloise.  This medieval “triumph of love” finds its synthesis in Dante’s Vita Nuova, which strongly recalls the Consolation of Boethius, functioning as a “book-end” for the course.  We will look at these writings alongside other contemporary artistic products, especially manuscript art (illustrated from University of Toronto collections) and music.

TBB 199H1S  Medieval Medicine

This course focuses on the theories and practices of medicine in Europe, c.500-1500, by examining surviving evidence from the period, including (in translation) pharmaceutical recipes, diagnostic guides, doctor’s records, treatises on anatomy, surgery and gynecology, commentaries on Hippocrates and Galen, laws and regulations for physicians, university lectures, disputes in court records, satirical writings against physicians, as well as visual evidence of artifacts, surgical instruments, manuscript illumination/diagrams, hospital sites and design. Proceeding chronologically, the course engages with such topics as: the heritage of ancient writings (Hippocrates, Galen), the impact of Christianity on medical thought, traditions of simple and compound drugs, physicians of barbarian kings, monastic medicine, Anglo-Saxon charms and recipes, clerical attitudes to medicine,  the school of Salerno,  the impact of Arabic authors on Europe, the rise of universities, scholastic methods and medical texts, crusader hospitals, advances in anatomy and surgery, the regulation of medical practitioners and pharmacists, and  responses to the Black Death.  

Text book: Wallis, F. 2010. (ed.), Medieval Medicine:  A Reader.  University of Toronto Press.  ISBN 978-1-4426-0103-1.

Further course materials will be supplied on Blackboard.

SII 199H1F  Health Policy in Canada: Past, Present and Future

There is a need for strong public policy. One of Canada’s recognized areas of strength in public policy has been in health. We need to cultivate an awareness of this in our students, as they are the policymakers of tomorrow.

To do this this course will begin by showing the roots of our present policy, from the various studies and reports that were prepared at the federal level through the 1930s and 40s; to the influence of the Beveridge Report (UK), to Saskatchewan’s bold move to go it alone after the failure of the Dominion-Provincial Conference on Reconstruction to agree on a social policy plan. This saw the province implement the first hospital insurance plan in North America in January, 1947.

It will also touch on the strength Saskatchewan had in policy development generally from 1944 to1964. It will deal with Diefenbaker removing the ‘six provinces’ clause in the Diagnostic and Hospital Services Act, which at once allowed for a national system and gave Saskatchewan the resources to take its plan to the next step – comprehensive medical insurance. Diefenbaker took another bold step in striking the Hall Commission to look at medical insurance on a national scale. Saskatchewan’s next move culminated in the Doctors’ Strike in 1962.

What is equally important is what we need to do to maintain a system in the present and plan for the future. The issues are complex and the ‘right’ answers elusive. The need is to cultivating the proper critical thinking in order to plot a realistic path to success. Some countries, notably the UK, have embarked on bold new policy initiatives to modernize their national health systems. It is too early to tell whether they will be successful, nonetheless, their initiatives will be examined.

In terms of the future, the parliaments of the UK (and Finland) have instituted all-party, futures-oriented initiatives to look at the long-term. These will be examined.

The objective will be to instill a level of knowledge in students so that they might go on to tackle the seemingly intractable problems of policy development in a highly complex society in an area where there are strong interest groups and no clear answers. Public policy and public institutions are what we hold in common. It is absolutely essential they be of the highest quality.

TBB 199Y1Y  Great Ideas in Social and Political Thought

There is a tradition in social and political thought that has come to be called “classical” because the ideas constituting that tradition have stood the test of time. Among those ideas, some have acquired a timeless status and may be regarded as valid, trans-historical insights. Other ideas in the tradition have not necessarily proved themselves to be valid, but they too have stood the test of time, proving fruitful as perspectives and conceptual tools with which to approach significant questions, problems, and issues. With this in mind, we will read and discuss selected excerpts from the works of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche.

PMU 199Y1Y  Modern Physics in Perspective

Have you wondered about the origin and workings of the natural world around us? Have you found science interesting but felt shut out because it was too full of math and jargon? Have you felt a pull to become more science-literate? If so, this course is for you. It's intended for anyone interested in understanding more about the universe, including our planet, seen through the lens of modern physics. Ideas on the menu will include: space and time, relativity, black holes, quantum physics, particle physics, unification, big bang cosmology, extra dimensions, “branes”, and string theory. The intriguing story of these integrated phenomena unfolds over a wide distance and a long time. By the end of the course, students should have a firm grasp of the main ideas of modern physics and a well-honed scientific baloney detection kit with lifelong utility. No prior experience with physical science will be required, but familiarity with Grade 10 mathematics will be assumed. Students from diverse academic backgrounds are all warmly welcome.

XBC 199Y1Y  The Past Within the Present

"History is bunk!" This famous put-down of history by Henry Ford - creator of the automobile assembly line - has an ironic twist, because Ford also designed a "living-history" museum close to his factories. Far from hating history, he produced an historical interpretive experience to influence future generations. Whatever our perspectives may be, we, like Ford, seem to need the past immediately around us. What about Toronto? This cosmopolitan city has its own long history that provides us with a sense of place, but which now usually represents the actual history of a small number of the city's current residents. Why should Toronto's monuments and public buildings, its streetscapes and neighbourhoods be valued? What is being preserved? What does the specific heritage of a unique district such as this university campus, or the larger region, contribute to Toronto as a cosmopolitan city? These issues are evident in other aspects of Canadian debates as well. What is history when written records and oral traditions differ, and First Nations' land claims or treaty rights are adjudicated by our courts? How do we develop interpretive historical exhibits that include our recent citizens? Are public apologies for the wrongs imposed by previous generations appropriate? Are they necessary? What if differing "histories" clash? This course explores such aspects of history's public face: how we use it, and why we need physical reminders of the past in our daily lives.


TRN 190Y1Y Critical Reading and Critical Writing

This seminar is for students who wish to sharpen their skills in written communication and critical analysis.  The course is founded on the assumption that closer, more strategic reading of plays, poems, and fiction can improve critical thinking and writing in many areas of academic and professional endeavour.  The texts studied in each year’s seminar range from a play by Shakespeare and a classic nineteenth-century novel to contemporary fiction, poetry, and film.  The first term’s readings are set in advance, but the novels for the second term are determined by a vote among the seminar’s students.  Assignments for the course emphasize stages of the writing process, from concept to finished paper, offering practical strategies for producing effective academic essays.  In addition, the small class size means that each student can receive extensive individual coaching from the professor.  The seminar structure also provides ample opportunity for students to articulate and debate their views in class discussion and oral presentations.

Sponsored by Trinity College
Lecture-plus-Seminar Course for 2014-15

TRN 200Y: Modes of Reasoning

The first term of this course is concerned with reasoning expressed in the form of arguments as understood in logic.  Emphasis is placed on learning how to recognize, analyze, and evaluate arguments in ordinary English and on learning techniques for constructing and defending an argument in support of a claim.

The skills learned in the first term are basic skills required for success in many areas of university work, including the study of law.  Students who have taken the course have found these skills helpful in their other courses and in writing scholastic aptitude tests, such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

In the second term, the class puts to work a number of the skills learned in the first term, by studying ethical reasoning and legal reasoning.  We examine a variety of methods of ethical reasoning and criteria for evaluating such reasoning, and we do so partly by studying the reasoning used in discussions of a selection of contemporary social issues.  When we turn to legal reasoning, we consider some of the same issues, only this time from a legal perspective.  Our main focus in this part of the course is on the nature of judicial reasoning (i.e., the reasoning of judges).  In exploring this topic, we examine the reasoning used in a selection of legal decisions, including decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in cases involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.