UH395H: Literature and Ethics Instructor: Stephen Behrendt, Dept. of English TIME: 0930 – 1045 TR Overview: Literature and Ethics are natural partners. The stories we tell, and the way we tell them, reflect the moral and ethical assumptions, expectations, and practices that we have acquired in our individual journeys through life. Those stories are often places where we actively question these attitudes and beliefs within changing times and changing cultures. But all writing for public consumption – like all public speech – is inherently political, too, because it inevitably attempts to engage the minds of citizens in these same investigations of values. Any writer – any of us – therefore has an ethical responsibility for what she or he writes and may be held responsible for the consequences of that writing. Writing does not exist in a vacuum. We will approach the complicated subject of ethics and ethical behaviors (of all sorts) as we encounter them in a variety of literary texts from a broad range of times, places, and cultures. Our purposes will be both (1) to get a clearer sense of just what it is we mean when we talk about “ethics” and (2) to examine how ethical issues, confrontations and dilemmas are presented for our principled examination in written texts that possess real literary, cultural, and/or aesthetic power and significance. Teaching Method: Since this is a seminar, I will expect everyone to participate fully in an ongoing classroom discussion, which I see as a conversational and relatively informal but intellectually engaged exchange in which we work together to help one another wrestle with genuinely important – although often very complex and difficult – intellectual, political, spiritual, and cultural issues that continue to lie at the center of our lives as students and as citizens. So we will talk about the readings and how they relate to one another and to the larger issues of ethics and ethical responsibilities. Requirements: (1) Thoughtful preparation, in advance, of assigned readings. (2) Regular participation in classroom discussions and both individual and group presentations. (3) Some brief and usually informal writing. (4) A longer formal research-based seminar essay. Tentative Reading List: Required (probably): Ethics, Literature, Theory, ed. Stephen K. George, 2nd ed. (2005). Other readings will be selected from among – but not all – of the following: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Percy Shelley, The Cenci; Dickens, A Christmas Carol; Ha Jin, The Bridegroom; Flannery O’Connor, The Displaced Person; Sophocles, Antigone; Machiavelli, The Prince; Glaspell, Trifles; Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution; Conrad, The Secret Sharer; King, Letter from Birmingham Jail; the Book of Job.