PHIL 253: Philosophy and Literature

PHIL 253-010: Philosophy and Literature
(Spring 2022)

10:30 AM to 11:45 AM MW

Krug Hall 19

Section Information for Spring 2022

Instructor: Dr. James Gledhill.

This course focuses on the relationship between ethics and literature. Should we read literature with an eye to how it grapples with ethical questions and to the moral lessons it has to teach us, or does this impede the appreciation of art for its own sake? If reading does have an ethical dimension, can the experience of reading some works of literature, particularly modern novels, make us better citizens and better people?

With literary reading on the decline, are we in danger of losing a source of meaning and moral insight that is of fundamental cultural significance? From a philosophical perspective, could it be that literature is an important supplement to moral philosophy in exploring ethical questions? More radically still, should literature be seen as a form of moral philosophy, indeed a form of moral philosophy that is better able to portray the texture of our moral lives and the complexity of ethical deliberation?

These are the questions we will be exploring in the first half of the course. In the second half, we will apply the insights gained to reading a critically acclaimed, widely debated, and philosophically rich modern novel, J.M. Coetzee’s 1999 novel Disgrace, set in post-apartheid South Africa. As well as exploring the novel’s themes of race, gender, and gender violence within their historical and political context, we will also consider how the novel might be held to portray and inspire a process of ethical imagination. 


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Course Information from the University Catalog

Credits: 3

Examines differences and relations between literary and philosophical texts. Examines texts from a given period in the history of literature and philosophy. Topics include the presence of common issues in literary and philosophical writings, the influence of philosophical ideas on the production of literary texts and literary theory, and the development in literary texts of issues that are possible objects of philosophical inquiry. Limited to three attempts.
Mason Core: Literature
Schedule Type: Lecture
This course is graded on the Undergraduate Regular scale.

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