Tomorrow I begin to teach 6 week class on the Fall of the Roman Empire to the local, University of North Dakota, branch of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute. This Institute focuses mainly on teaching community members - primarily "seasoned adults" and "life long learners" - and does not offer courses for credit. The expense is minimal and the goals of my class will be to entertain as much as educate. I'll have to balance my tendency to go into great detail about minute events of the Late Antique world (although it is hard to understand how anyone could not care deeply about the machinations leading up the Three Chapters Controversy!). On the other hand, I am pretty excited to offer a class to the greater community. My grandmother took classes at a similar institution at the University of Delaware after my grandfather had died, and she seemed to really enjoy them. It will feel good to share some of my knowledge, see how my approach plays to an audience not worried about getting a good grade, and to hear what my "students" think about the end of the ancient world.
That all being said, this is the first time that I'll teach a course in my particular area of specialty on campus at UND. It seems hard to believe that I've been here for 8 years and have yet to teach a course on the Late Antique world. Another reason to be excited.
I have conceived of the class in 6, more or less autonomous units:
1. Introduction to the Fall of Rome
2. Politics, Popes, Emperors, and Invaders
3. Christians and Pagans
4. Cities, Buildings, and the End of the Empire
5. Archaeology and the End of the Empire
6. Rome After Rome: The Long Shadow of Late Antiquity
The course is a blatant bait-and-switch. My focus will be less on the "Fall of Rome" as discrete political event and much more on the period of Late Antiquity. My goal will be to convince the class that the legacy of Rome refracted through political, religious, social, and economic changes of the 4th to 8th centuries is far more important than the sacking of a city or the death of an Emperor (well, except, I suppose to the folks who lived in Rome or the family of the Emperor). In fact, I want them all to understand that the most of the basic tensions that define modern political and religious discourse have roots in Late Antiquity. So the Fall of Rome is less about the death of some romanticized (I couldn't resist!) ancient world and much more about the birth of a society that has strangely familiar echoes.
Wish me luck!