ENGL 135
Vengeance Fall 2017 Division I; Writing-Intensive;
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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 wrapped 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 Justice”–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. Readings will include Sophocles’ Electra, Dante’s Inferno, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest, Chalderon de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, and Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, as well as several short stories and films.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 1827
Requirements/Evaluation: two 5-page essays; one 10-page essay; several short response essays; 10% of grade is on participation
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preference: first-year students who have not taken or placed out of a 100-level English course
Distributions: Division I; Writing-Intensive;

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