Slavic R5A, Section 2: Cruel World

TuTh 8-9:30, Remote. Instructor: Nihal Shetty.

Units: 4

A common justification for the place of the humanities in the contemporary university is their role in fostering the development of ethics. However, as the philosopher Martha Nussbaum has argued, ‘goodness’ is fragile—among other things, it is contingent on political and social contexts that could make any ethical action impossible. What importance do moral principles have under, for instance, serfdom, apartheid, or slavery? What kind of tension exists between freedom and ethical obligations? This course will investigate the relationship between ethics and art by taking as its focus works in which the ethically ‘good’ is either absent or rejected. In doing so, we will develop writing skills while thinking critically about the relationships between the liberal arts, empathy, and ethics within particular historical and contemporary political contexts. Readings will include novels by Gogol, Coetzee, and Morrison, short stories by Tolstoy, Chekhov, Babel, and Makanin, essays by Berger and Sontag, and films by Almódovar. This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.


Required for purchase:

Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (Penguin, trans. Robert Maguire) ISBN: 978-0140448078

Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee (Penguin) ISBN: 978-0140296402

Beloved, Toni Morrison (Vintage) ISBN: 978-1400033416

Prerequisites: none

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.