CLCIV 350 - Topics in Classical Civilization
Fall 2022, Section 001 - History, Art & Philosophy of the Tarot
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Classical Civilization (CLCIV)
Department: LSA Classical Studies
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
CLCIV 101 and 102.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:


An inquiry into the roots of the Tarot’s symbolism and a study of Tarot Divination

This class is equally history of magic, history of philosophy, and art history. The purpose of the class is for students to become familiar with the narrative meanings of and history of Tarot symbolism, particularly the images displayed on the so-called “Major Arcana” cards. These cards depict the journey of a soul through the stages of virtue and into final enlightenment and bliss. However, it is only in the deployment of this symbolism in relationship to the others cards in the Tarot deck that the journey unfolds. Hence, the class will also be engaged in the study of Tarot divination, both in terms of its history and in terms of actively learning contemporary methods to “read” the cards. Most important from the academic perspective, we will see that the Tarot speaks a language deeply rooted in Western spiritual traditions, including Christianity, Platonism, and esoteric magic. Contemporary artists have also created new visions of this tradition, moving the artwork into the realm of liberation, anti-racist, eco-centric, and Asian fusion expressions. In order to appreciate the diversity of these new ways of understanding the Tarot, students will be engaged in creating their own Tarot decks, working in groups that share similar interests. The class will print and use these decks to share their knowledge with the larger community. It might surprise students that the Tarot can be traced back to Plato’s philosophy. Hence, its connections with Classical Studies.

Texts: Plato. Phaedrus.
Apuleius. The Golden Ass
Prudentius. Psychomachia

Course Requirements:

  • Midterm Exam on the Symbolism of the Major Arcana
  • Essay Exploring the History of Tarot Symbolism
  • Creative Project
  • Active Participation
  • Class Presentation on the Art of the Tarot

Intended Audience:

Can be taken by majors in Cl Civ, intended as a general interest course for students in any rank.

Class Format:

Two meetings per week, lecture, discussion, participation, lab time in library


CLCIV 350 - Topics in Classical Civilization
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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