Gods, Humans, and Devils
This is a writing course, but don’t let that mislead you into thinking that we will spend a whole lot of our time discussing the technical aspect of writing: how to formulate a thesis and develop paragraphs, how to integrate quotes and write commentaries on them, what is an appropriate format for academic writing, and so forth. While all that is important and we will make sure to talk about it in its own place, an overemphasis on that misses the key point: i.e. powerful writing is the result of long and deep exposure to powerful writing, which involves deep thinking and profound feeling. Hence our focus in this writing course will be the selected literary readings, which will serve as both the anchor and the springboard for all the writings we will be doing. The readings are such that it is my hope that they will constitute an interesting sampling of the literary achievement of the Western world insofar as that is possible in a period of ten weeks. We will begin by briefly looking at the twin origins of the tradition, a Greek tragedy Oedipus the King plus a really small section of the Christian Bible, which will then pave the way for the processing of two modern masterpieces, Goethe’s Faust (Part 1) and Dostoevsky’s Brother Karamazov, both of which pick up and rework the questions that came up in ancient times, questions of human life, fate and suffering, evil and divinity. If you are interested in stories that provoke those questions, and would also like to learn something about literature in general, its genres and how it operates historically, and practice some writing along the way, this is a course for you.