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C LIT 357 A: Literature and Film

MF 11:30am - 12:50pm / SMI 407
W 11:30am - 12:20pm / SMI 304
Joint Sections: 
PHIL 301 B, GERMAN 385 A
Ellwood Wiggins

Syllabus Description:

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: The Rhetoric of Compassion

Prof. Ellwood (Office Hours: M 1-2:30, and by appt on Zoom)

TA Justin Mohler, (Office Hours: MW 10:30–11:30, DEN 359)

President Obama called the “empathy deficit” the most pressing problem facing America. In this course, we will examine what’s at stake in becoming a more empathetic nation.

Is compassion the foundation of human morality or a dangerously unreliable emotion? This course examines the strategies and motivations in different media of fostering sympathy for commonly held enemies or discriminated groups. The syllabus runs from Ancient Greece to depictions of Nazis and terrorists in modern film, and considers philosophical assessments of sympathy alongside examples of its aesthetic manufacture. Half of our readings are in moral philosophy (e.g., Aristotle, Spinoza, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, Nietzsche, Arendt), and in each case we use the literary text or film (e.g., Sophocles, Shakespeare, Lessing, Eliot, Brecht) as a kind of experimental field to evaluate the philosophers’ concepts and claims about the moral efficacy of compassion. 

This course engages in team-based learning. Groups work to engender sympathy for a 'bad guy' in three genres: a speech, a scene, and a visual project. During the final, groups will present their project to the class.

This course will count toward Diversity Credit, and (depending on which section) VLPA or I&S. Cross-listed with: Comparative Literature, Philosophy, German.

Required Texts:

Course Packet (EZ Copy N Print on the Ave.)

Sophocles, Philoktetes (trans. Seth Schein, Focus Publishing, 2003)

Lessing, Nathan the Wise (trans. Ronald Schechter, Bedford, 2004)

All readings and discussion in English! 

Syllabus and Course Policies

Catalog Description: 
The film as an art form, with particular reference to the literary dimension of film and to the interaction of literature with the other artistic media employed in the form. Films are shown as an integral part of the course. Content varies.
Department Requirements Met: 
Elective for both Literature and Cinema
GE Requirements Met: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
September 17, 2021 - 10:53pm