B6 5/29-7/6 CAC MW 6:00-10:25 PM 04329 HUGHES MU-113
"How Should a Person Be?"
“How should a person be?” This may seem like a timeless question, but the way that people think about it has changed significantly over the course of history. If we have ethical obligations, where do they come from—God, nature, society, ourselves? Is an individual’s identity primarily defined by her position in a community, her relationships with other people, her relationship with herself? To what extent are our choices shaped by economic, historical, or psychological forces beyond our control? What are the limits of sympathy and empathy? This class will consider several influential responses to these and other questions from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a period in which the public discourse around ethics underwent dramatic changes. Our goal will be to understand how people think and talk about these abstract questions and, in the process, to reflect on our own ethical positions.
Readings will include aphorisms, poems, essays, novels, parodies, speeches, and letters. Authors will likely include William Wordsworth, John Keats, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Seacole, Alfred Lord Tennyson, George Eliot, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, W. E. B. Du Bois, Virginia Woolf, and James Baldwin. Requirements will include class participation, several informal writing assignments, and two papers.