The description below shows an investigation in six units and the readings that will make up each unit. In sum, the initial trajectory of the course (and I say “initial” because our discussion of the material will most likely change this trajectory) is twofold. On the one hand, we will formulate a comprehensive outlook on the intersection of philosophy and literature. On the other, I hope that we will also explore what philosophy adds to literature and vice versa though with some awareness that the distinction between the two pursuits may be superficial.
The assignments will be some mixture of writing essays and creative writing assignments—i.e. writing short stories, vignettes, and other such assignments that we decide on together as a class. I’ll try to keep the reading under sixty pages per week.
Unit 1: Literature in Philosophy—Sartre’s Keyhole; Nietzsche’s Eternal Return; Frank Jackson’s Black and White Mary; Thomas Nagel’s “What Is It Like to Be a Bat,” and a poem about a tick;
Unit 2: Literature as Philosophy—Plato's Allegory of the Cave; Kafka's Metamorphosis and Nabokov’s Lecture on Metamorphosis; Melville Moby Dick as Philosophy;
Unit 3: Poetics as Principles of Philosophical Design—Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical Ballads; and Rilke Letters to a Young Poet;
Unit 4: Philosophy in Literary Criticism—Derrida’s Deconstruction, Pyrrhonian Skepticism, and the project of social change;
Unit 5: Philosophy in Reading Literature—Schleiermacher and Serious Hermeneutics; Gadamer and the Hermeneutic Circle; and Julia Annas Reading to Refute;
Unit 6: Philosophy in Literature—Dostoevsky Notes from Underground; and Voltaire Candide