ENGL 116 Fall 2012 The Ethics of Fiction (W)

Can made up stories actually be bad for you? (Plato seems to have thought so.) Conversely, can they do you any good, even transform your vision of what it means to be good? Can reading fiction, that is, shape your moral character? Or is literature really just entertainment, however sophisticated and intellectually challenging? In this course, we will explore questions like these about the ethics of fiction, questions that have inspired some practitioners of the art to make claims such as: "Surely one of the novel's habitual aims is to articulate morality, to sharpen the reader's sense of vice and virtue" (John Updike); "You write in order to change the world...and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it" (James Baldwin); "...a writer [is] as an architect of the soul" (Doris Lessing); "Naturally you're aware that bad art can finally cripple a man" (Saul Bellow). If you are curious about the subject of ethics, enjoy reading narrative fictions, and are interested in thinking about the connection between the two, this may be the class for you. We will read a varied selection of fiction along with a fair amount of scholarship on the links between moral philosophy and narrative forms in order to refine the critical language we have at our disposal. Writers we will read include: Elizabeth Anscombe, J.M. Coetzee, Cora Diamond, Richard Eldridge, Kazuo Ishiguro, Henry James, Immanuel Kant, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, Tim O'Brien, Robert Pippin, and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Class Format: discussion/seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: active class participation and five papers totaling 20 pages
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Enrollment Preference: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level English course
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Divisional Attributes: Division I,Writing Intensive
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Enrollment Limit: 19
Expected Enrollment: 19
Class Number: 1570
ENGL116-01(F) SEM The Ethics of Fiction (W) Division 1: Languages and the ArtsWriting Intensive Bernard J. Rhie
MWF 10:00 AM-10:50 AM Schapiro Hall 141 1570
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