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The Examined Life: Ancient Ethical Literature at Rome
/ COMP 277
The philosophical schools of classical antiquity had in common a commitment to eudaemonia; that is, they considered human flourishing as a chief goal of life. This aim was not limited to professional philosophers, however. Rather, the question of how humans should live was a widespread and deeply felt concern, and ethical considerations pervade ancient texts across many genres. This course will focus on works of literature that consider how to live wisely, happily, and well, whether through seeking pleasure or acting justly, whether through political engagement or by retreating from society. We will analyze a wide variety of texts, but all are animated by an ethical premise most famously enunciated by Socrates, namely, that the unexamined life is not worth living. Readings may include dialogues, speeches, correspondence, plays, and poems, among them the Satires and Epistles of Horace, Seneca’s On Leisure and On the Happy Life, and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. All readings will be in translation.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
class participation, several short written assignments, one or two longer essays (around five pages)
Classics majors, Comparative Literature majors, or intending Classics and Comparative Literature majors
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit: