Kyungnam University’s 77 years of history is Korea’s modern history itself, sharing joy and sorrow with the Korean people. Kyungnam University (KU) has its root in the Kookmin University Building, which was established by temporary government officials, including Haegong Shin Ik-hee, with the intention of fostering national talents. In the early days immediately after its establishment, the foundation of the school was not stable, and to make matters worse, the Korean War broke out. Therefore, the school was relocated and its name changed several times. However, KU has overcome a lot of difficulties by following the sublime founding philosophy of fostering talents that will contribute to the nation and its development. In 1973, KU finally laid the foundation for a full-fledged university at the current Wolyoung Campus, and in 1982, it was able to establish its proud status as an institution for higher education in Korea (70 Years of Kyungnam University History, 2016).
Since 2021, as the school-age population fell short of the enrollment quota, local private universities’ lack of entrants has come into full swing. Universities are making every effort to overcome the crisis by making changes in many ways, including reorganizing programs and attracting foreign exchange students. As part of its efforts, KU opened Arete Classics (a classic reading class) as a Compulsory Course, focusing on Creativity-Character Education (CCE). Arete Classics is centered on discussion and presentation. Tests vary somewhat depending on the professors’ discretion, but most of the paperwritten tests are replaced by presentations or various activities. For my class, during the midterm exam period, students are given a meaningful time to select various topics related to Faust, write a three-page report and make a presentation. I want to share with KT readers my lingering emotions of the midterm presentations before they disappear.
First, I couldn’t help but admire the subjects set by my students for their presentations. To my surprise, the students went beyond the easy and comfortable topics I provided as examples to choose topics related to the philosophical, literary, religious, mythological, scientific, and historical perspectives present in Faust . In fact, these are topics that can be encountered in master’s or doctoral programs. After first introducing the topics, I would like to continue by expressing my feelings and impressions. The topics are as follows:
• Chemical analysis of the identity and process of the drug that Faust's father made to solve the Black Death
• Research on heretical, mythological, and legendary citations in Faust, and the study on the religious situation involved in the punishment of heretics
• Analysis and reinterpretation of the contradictions mentioned in Faust's lines
• Reflection on Mephistopheles' criticism of Christianity
• Study on the contracts with the devils in literature including Faust
• Comparison of the meaning of prisons in Faust with that in our lives
• Reflection on the realistic concerns of Christians viewed through Goethe's Faust
• Study on the political situations in Germany and the world in the 18th century and what the character Faust suggests to us
Regarding the first topic of “The identity and process of the drug,” the presenter carefully analyzed related lines in Faust , established a chemical formula, and made a very interesting presentation on what ingredients Faust’s father mixed to treat the Black Death and how they affected people. This unique topic was interesting enough to fascinate not only me but also all the other students.
The most difficult thing while being in charge of teaching Faust is how to reduce the impact that anti-Christian elements hidden throughout this work can have on Christian students. As one of the solutions, Christian students are encouraged to write a report of rebuttal against and explanation of the related parts if they find conflicts with their religion in Faust . Several students chose their topics by linking Faust with Christianity and made good presentations by refuting arguments and reflecting on topics from the perspective of Christians.
In the sixth topic, “Comparison of the meaning of prisons,” we had time to think about the meanings of the prison in Faust as well as those that we feel trapped by in modern society. In particular, it was very interesting to hear that the prison that people in their 20s think most about does not involve crime but it is deeply related to love and passion. Last but not least, the most meaningful presentation was “Study on the political situation in Germany and the World in the 18th Century,” which helped us understand the symbolic and figurative meanings of the lines of Faust Part I . The presentation fascinated us to the extent that some classmates asked the presenter to analyze Faust Part II on the same topic for the final-term presentation.
In addition to the originality of the students’ topic selection, what surprised me was that the presentations fully showed how much effort the students exerted to prepare for their papers, through which I was able to see the bright vision of KU. In the 21st century, when the role of artificial intelligence is increasing more and more day by day, I think that what is earnestly needed to live our lives successfully, without referring to success involving money and fame, is the very will to self-overcome, the love for oneself, and a good personality with which we can love nature and pursue harmony with. Arete Classics, which focuses on discussion and presentation, not only provides a place for analysis and discussion of literary works, but also offers a place for students to candidly talk about their experiences, values, and visions of life with classmates, seniors, and professors in a comfortable environment. Through these fields, students reflect on their lives in spite of themselves, improve their empathy for others, develop the ability to understand and analyze situations, and organize their thoughts into a paper and further have the courage to present it in public. I firmly believe that such abilities will contribute not only to the development of individuals, but also to the development of universities, societies, countries, and the world.