ENGL 135
Vengeance Fall 2009
Division I Writing Skills
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For almost three thousand years revenge has been a central preoccupation of European literature. Revenge is inviting to literary and dramatic treatment partly because of its impulse towards structure: it traces a simple arc of injury and retaliation. A injures B, and B retaliates against A. But retaliation is never easy or equivalent, and there is always a volatile emotive mixture of loss and grievance that stirs up ethical ambiguities that are seldom resolved. Vengeance also fascinates because it is so paradoxical. The avenger, though isolated and vulnerable, can nevertheless achieve heroic grandeur by coming to personify nemesis. And yet the hero is always contaminated by trying to make a right out of two wrongs–and he usually has to die for it. Driven by past events, cut off from the present, and rapt up in stratagems for future reprisals, the avenger’s actions are almost always compromised by impotence or excess. At best, revenge is “a kinde of Wilde Iustice”–a justice that kills its heroes as well as its villains.
We will look at as many stories of vengeance, across as wide a range of cultures and media, as possible.
The Class: Format: discussion/seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1621
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based upon class participation; four short papers (5 pages), one of which will be revised into a longer critical essay (of 10-12 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students and then to sophomores
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills

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