East Meets West: Program Overview
A Clash of Cultures
East Meets West is a dynamic study for first-year students that traces the development of Western culture from antiquity through the twentieth century by focusing on the West's relationship with Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This region runs along what Samuel Huntington calls a "fault line of civilization," and as the twenty-first century unfolds, we have been forced by its tragic events to reassess how Islamic East, Christian East and Christian West have grown so far apart politically, economically, culturally, and religiously. Understanding our Western selves and our Eastern neighbors has become a necessity.
Our response has been to create a curriculum that traces the roots of our cultural and religious differences from their classical origins through early Christianity, the emergence of Islam, the Crusading era, the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Western dominance, the catastrophes of the twentieth century, and the violent confrontations of the twenty-first. Students will learn the deep contexts of today's headlines and begin to understand degrees and contours of the East-West cultural divides.
East Meets West will be presented during the second semester and Mayterm of the students’ first year. During the semester, the curriculum will be presented in Houghton and cover the bulk of the course work; during Mayterm the class will be transported to the eastern Mediterranean, where the themes of the course will be reiterated and further explored in Venice, Split, Dubrovnik, Zagreb, and other important sites of East-West interactions.
East Meets West comes alive with a team of expert and experienced faculty. Prof. Meic Pearse, the program founder and director, holds a D.Phil. in ecclesiastical history from Oxford University. Prof. Pearse has extensive experience in eastern Europe, teaching most years since 1995 as an adjunct professor of church history at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Osijek, Croatia. He is best known for his accessible and incisive books of cultural history and analysis, Why the Rest Hates the West and The Gods of War. Collaborating with Prof. Pearse are Prof. Peter Meilaender, a political theorist whose work focuses especially on questions of immigration and citizenship, and Prof. Stephen Woolsey, a scholar of American and European literature who has cultivated a particular expertise in Balkan literature. Prof. Pearse leads the Mayterm trip through the Balkans, where his close knowledge of the region and his extensive network of friends in key Christian ministries create a rich educational experience.