Slavic R5B, Section 1: Beauty and Justice: Nabokov’s Lolita and Coetzee’s Disgrace

MWF 9-10, Dwinelle 87. Instructor: Zachary Johnson.

Units: 4

In this course we will read two masterpieces of modern literature, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace. These novels are beautifully written explorations of the nature of desire, the roles of art and literature in our lives, and the ways in which language conveys, contains, and creates experience. These novels also depict events that can cause us to question the justice, fairness, or rightness of their story worlds, as well as our own. In this class we will examine the tension that inheres in beautiful depictions of injustice.
Themes, questions, and topics to be pursued in this class include the relationship between literature and ethics, the novelistic representation of sexuality, and the emotional experience of reading. The close reading of these novels, which we will undertake in this course, is intended to sharpen your skills of analytical reading and argumentative writing. In addition to these works of fiction, we will also read some ancient and contemporary works of philosophy that examine the relationship between beauty and justice, as well as selected secondary sources, which will serve as examples of scholarship in the humanities.
Both of these books deal with controversial themes — notably rape, cross-generational sexual relationships, and in Lolita, a relationship that some people would describe as pedophile in nature. If you feel that you will not be able to engage intellectually or emotionally with these themes, I recommend that you write to me about taking this course.

Required Texts:
Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace
Course Reader: Plato, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Elain Scarry, among others.

This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Due to the high demand for R&C courses we monitor attendance very carefully. Attendance is mandatory the first two weeks of classes, this includes all enrolled and wait listed students. If you do not attend all classes the first two weeks you may be dropped. If you are attempting to add into this class during weeks 1 and 2 and did not attend the first day, you will be expected to attend all class meetings thereafter and, if space permits, you may be enrolled from the wait list.