As part of a series of case studies titled “In the Humanities Classroom,” this essay asks how one can teach college students with little or no exposure to close reading, critical analysis, or the premodern world to read a text written c. 202 CE. An instructor at Sacramento State University in California describes her experience introducing students enrolled in a humanities survey course to The Passion of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas—a text that combines the prison diaries of two North African Christians with an eyewitness account of their deaths. In this description of a single, seventy-five-minute class session, the reader is shown how students can be prompted to find the beginnings of a complex interpretation in their own initial, “gut” reactions to an alien and difficult text.

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