English 2110 World Literature, Spring 2017

Section 03: MW 2:00-3:15PM, Arts & Sciences 345

Section 04: MW 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 345

In Class Activities

1. Closely Reading Conrad

To prepare for the close reading paper, today we're going to break into groups and practice an abbreviated close reading of a significant passage. Here are the passages:

  1. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate. (20)
  2. I went to work the next day, turning, so to speak, my back on that station. In that way only it seemed to me I could keep my hold on the redeeming facts of life. Still, one must look about sometimes; and then I saw this station, these men strolling aimlessly about in the sunshine of the yard. I asked myself sometimes what it all meant. They wandered here and there with their absurd long staves in their hands, like a lot of faithless pilgrims bewitched inside a rotten fence. The word 'ivory' rang in the air, was whispered, was sighed. You would think they were praying to it. A taint of imbecile rapacity blew through it all, like a whiff from some corpse. By Jove! I've never seen anything so unreal in my life. And outside, the silent wilderness surrounding this cleared speck on the earth struck me as something great and invincible, like evil or truth, waiting patiently for the passing away of this fantastic invasion. (34)
  3. Trees, trees, millions of trees, massive, immense, running up high; and at their foot, hugging the bank against the stream, crept the little begrimed steamboat, like a sluggish beetle crawling on the floor of a lofty portico. It made you feel very small, very lost, and yet it was not altogether depressing, that feeling. After all, if you were small, the grimy beetle crawled on—which was just what you wanted it to do. Where the pilgrims imagined it crawled to I don't know. To some place where they expected to get something. I bet! For me it crawled towards Kurtz—exclusively; but when the steam-pipes started leaking we crawled very slow. The reaches opened before us and closed behind, as if the forest had stepped leisurely across the water to bar the way for our return. We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of drums behind the curtain of trees would run up the river and remain sustained faintly, as if hovering in the air high over our heads, till the first break of day. Whether it meant war, peace, or prayer we could not tell. The dawns were heralded by the descent of a chill stillness; the wood-cutters slept, their fires burned low; the snapping of a twig would make you start. Were were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet. We could have fancied ourselves the first of men taking possession of an accursed inheritance, to be subdued at the cost of profound anguish and of excessive toil. But suddenly, as we struggled round a bend, there would be a glimpse of rush walls, of peaked grass-roofs, a burst of yells, a whirl of black limbs, a mass of hands clapping of feet stamping, of bodies swaying, of eyes rolling, under the droop of heavy and motionless foliage. The steamer toiled along slowly on the edge of a black and incomprehensible frenzy. The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us—who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand because we were too far and could not remember because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign—and no memories. (44)
  4. There was a sense of extreme disappointment, as though I had found out I had been striving after something altogether without a substance. I couldn't have been more disgusted if I had travelled all this way for the sole purpose of talking with Mr. Kurtz. Talking with . . . I flung one shoe overboard, and became aware that that was exactly what I had been looking forward to—a talk with Kurtz. I made the strange discovery that I had never imagined him as doing, you know, but as discoursing. I didn't say to myself, 'Now I will never see him,' or 'Now I will never shake him by the hand,' but, 'Now I will never hear him.' The man presented himself as a voice. Not of course that I did not connect him with some sort of action. Hadn't I been told in all the tones of jealousy and admiration that he had collected, bartered, swindled, or stolen more ivory than all the other agents together? That was not the point. The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out preeminently, that carried with it a sense of real presence, was his ability to talk, his words—the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness. (54)
  5. There was nothing either above or below him, and I knew it. He had kicked himself loose of the earth. Confound the man! he had kicked the very earth to pieces. He was alone, and I before him did not know whether I stood on the ground or floated in the air. I've been telling you what we said—repeating the phrases we pronounced—but what's the good? They were common everyday words—the familiar, vague sounds exchanged on every waking day of life. But what of that? They had behind them, to my mind, the terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of phrases spoken in nightmares. Soul! If anybody ever struggled with a soul, I am the man. And I wasn't arguing with a lunatic either. Believe me or not, his intelligence was perfectly clear—concentrated, it is true, upon himself with horrible intensity, yet clear; and therein was my only chance—barring, of course, the killing him there and then, which wasn't so good, on account of unavoidable noise. But his soul was mad. Being alone in the wilderness, it had looked within itself, and, by heavens! I tell you, it had gone mad. I had—for my sins, I suppose—to go through the ordeal of looking into it myself. No eloquence could have been so withering to one's belief in mankind as his final burst of sincerity. He struggled with himself, too. I saw it—I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself. (69)

Here are the issues each group should discuss:

  1. What is the overall conflict of the novella?
  2. What is the overall meaning of the novel?
  3. What is the core conflict of the passage?
  4. What is the meaning of the passage?
  5. Analyze one sentence of the passage in terms of connotation, imagery, symbolism, and/or figures of speech.
  6. How do core conflict and meaning of the passage broach or connect with the overall conflict and meaning of the novella?

2. Annotations and Ethics of Conrad and Celan

In order to prepare for the group project, which involves both composing an annotated bibliography on a literary work and discerning the ethical questions raised by the text, we'll practice annotating a scholarly journal article on Conrad's novella or Celan's poetry and determining the moral issues of those works of literature.


Prior to Wednesday, January 25, in addition to reading Deigh's "What Is Ethics?" (Deigh 1-24), read and take notes on the one essay of literary criticism assigned to you in the table below. All articles are available in GeorgiaVIEW > Content Browser > Course Packet.


Article 2:00 Section Students 3:30 Section Students

Bleiker, "'Give it the Shade': Paul Celan and the Politics of Apolitical Poetry"

Madi Brillhart

John Haverland

Matt Mercurio

Justin Poole

River Young

Ryan Agnew

Cory Fortner

Angel O'Berry

Chloe Whitworth


Hawkins, "...Paul Celan and the Language of Sanctification"

Mallory Finley

Robert Hegi

Patricia Morency

Tom Rader

Jarod Azzi

Emily Hinely

Madison Riggs

Amanda Wiggins

Moore, "'Speak, You Also': Encircling Trauma"

Isabel Godfrey

Klara Hodges

Lizzy Newman

Quinn Rafferty

Mary Alice Barrington

Sarah Holiman

Tyler Schoolcraft


Kaplan, "Colonizers, Cannibals and the Horror of Good Intentions in... Heart of Darkness"

Peyton Goss

Ann Irvin

Andrew O'Conor

Dale Robinson

Baylee Berkner

Caleb Stevens


Lackey, "The Moral Conditions for Genocide in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness"

Kaitlyn Griffith

Austin McMillan

Lexie Pappas

Savannah Walker

Matthew Emmerling

Josie Moody

Ben Stokes


Retief, "...the Quest for Moral Enlightenment in Conrad's Heart of Darkness"

Brooks Hanson

Claire McQuaig

Samantha Peacock

Grant Young

Patricia Fincher

Matthew Ivey

Laura Swarner



In class on Wednesday, January 25, groups will

  1. Collectively compose a 75-100 word annotation of the assigned article on Celan's poetry or Conrad's novella that
    • identifies the issue or question that the source is investigating,
    • defines the source's thesis or main idea relevant to your work of literature, and
    • explains how the source furthers your understanding of the work.
  2. Review the ethical issues discussed in Deigh (such as teleological purposes vs deontological duties; ethical theory vs moral community, particular/conventional morality vs universal/reason-based ideals) and apply the following ethical questions to your group's assigned work of literature, either Celan's poetry or Conrad's novella:
    • What questions does the work of literature pose about right and wrong, death, and/or happiness?
    • What does the work suggest about living the best life and/or practicing justice?
    • Is the moral system in the literary work derived from a social institution or from a universal standard such as ideal reason? What are the moral norms or conventional morality of the people in the work? How would you describe the moral community(-ies) of the work?
    • Do characters act out of a sense of (deontological) duty or in (telelogical) pursuit of an end or purpose?

3. Ethical Conflicts

Let's practice how to relate a story's core conflict to its ethical concerns using concepts from Deigh's "What Is Ethics?" and "Egoism." Break into groups, respond to the discussion questions, and present your findings to class.

  1. Márquez, "Death Constant Beyond Love" (Puchner 986-92)
  2. Naipaul, "One Out of Many" (Puchner 1006-28)
  3. Kincaid, "Girl" (Puchner 1144-6)
  4. Diaz, "Drown" (Puchner 1240-8)
  5. Diaz, "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie" (GeorgiaVIEW)

Here are the discussion questions:

  1. What is the core conflict of the story?
  2. How might this tension also engender an issue regarding how to live the ethical life?
  3. What specific idea does the story say about conventional morality and moral codes, universal and rational standards of right and wrong, duty, the pursuit of happiness, egoism, hedonism, perfectionism, and/or cooperation? (Note: Not all concepts are applicable to all stories.)

4. Neruda's Cultural Politics Politics (3:30 Section Only)

Last time, we looked at Pablo Neruda's personal love poetry. Today, let's look at his cultural and political poetry and focus on "The Heights of Macchu Picchu" from Canto General. Break into four groups and do a semi-close reading of your group's assigned section. (Note: This activity is for the 3:30 section; the 2:00 section has both a close reading and group project presentation that will explore these issues.)


Here are some questions to consider:

Here are the groups:

  1. Section VI and/or VII
  2. Section VIII and/or IX
  3. Section X and/or XI
  4. Section XII

5. Reading Ethics

Although some sections of John Deigh's An Introduction to Ethics delve deeper into the philosophical debates than our introduction to ethics and world literature class needs to go (and where our course would go if it were an introduction to ethics or philosophy course), the majority of the book serves as a basic primer. Look for key passages, terms, and ideas in each section. Let's practice how to read Deigh book by breaking into small groups and concentrating on the main ideas of particular sections in Chapter Four Utilitarianism. Each group will be assigned a single section and set of questions as follows:

  1. Impartiality (93-7): How does the chapter define classical utilitarianism? What is the Principle of Utility? The Greatest Happiness Principle? What does the hedonic calculus mean?
  2. Two Problems (98-100): What are the two problems with utilitarianism, according to Deigh?
  3. Consequentialism (101-3): What does consequentialism mean? What is consequentialism's relationship with justice and honesty?
  4. Mill's Restatement of Utilitarianism (103-7): What does Mill mean by secondary moral principles that are subordinate to the Principle of Utility? In other words, how does Mill adjust utilitarianism to deal with justice and honesty?
  5. An Inconsistency in Mill's Restatement (107-111): No group, no questions, as this section is background for the next section.
  6. Rule Utilitarianism (111-115): What is rule utilitarianism? What is act utilitarianism?
  7. Act Utilitarianism Revisited (115-8): No group, no questions, as this section is revisiting and complicating and developing act utilitarianism.
  8. Is Act Utilitarianism Self-Refuting (118-120): No group, no questions, as this section is complicating and developing act utilitarianism.
  9. When Act Utilitarianism Ceases to Be an Ethical Theory (121-122); No group, no questions, as this section is posing a conclusion.

6. The Elements of Allende's House

For our first day of discussion, let's analyze the various literary components that form the novel by breaking into 6 groups. Discuss the assigned question, below, and be prepared to report your conclusions to the class.

  1. Complete short character sketches of the novel's women: Clara del Valle, Rosa del Valle, Nívea del Valle, Férula Trueba, and Pancha García.
  2. Complete short character sketches of the novel's men: Severo del Valle, Marcos del Valle, Esteban Trueba, and Pedro Segundo García.
  3. Describe the novel's political, economic, and religious setting.
  4. Discuss and list examples of the novel's magical realism, i.e., the magical or supernatural elements that are portrayed in a matter of fact manner.
  5. Discuss the novel's tone, especially regarding violence. More generally, describe the third-person narrator's and first-person narrator's attitudes toward the stories and events, characters and lives, they're telling.
  6. Discuss the novel's ethics of power regarding class and gender.

7. The Elements of Allende's House (Redux)

For third day of discussion, let's analyze the various literary components that form the novel by breaking into groups. Discuss the assigned question, below, and be prepared to report your conclusions to the class.

  1. Analyze the following characters: Jaime Trueba, Nicolas Trueba, Blanca Trueba, Pedro Tercero García
  2. Analyze the following characters: Count Jean de Satigny, Esteban Trueba, Alba de Satigny, Esteban Garcia.
  3. Discuss the novel's evolving political and economic conflicts.
  4. Discuss the novel's evolving gender issues.
  5. Discuss whether the characters in The House of the Spirits act in accordance to the moral law, or whether the novel in general proposes a moral law, by discussing the ethical questions below.

8. Igbo Custom and Culture

For our first day of discussion of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, we will explore the Ibo customs and culture depicted in the novel. Break into 6 groups to discuss your assigned topic and find a passage illustrating your analysis.

  1. the role of men and masculininity
  2. the role of women and femininity
  3. religion
  4. law and government
  5. tradition
  6. language

9. Postcolonial Criticism

For our second day of discussion, we will explore the colonial and postcolonial aspects of the novel. While you are reading pages 75-148, think about Lois Tyson's seven "questions postcolonial critics ask about literary texts" (431-32) and be ready to answer the questions in class on Wednesday, March 15, when we will break into small groups to respond to the questions.

  1. How does Things Fall Apart allegorically represent colonial oppression with the the locusts chapter and the Tortoise myth, and how does it explicitly represent colonial oppression with the arrival of the white men?
  2. What does Things Fall Apart reveal about the problematics of postcolonial identity, including the relationship between personal and cultural identity? Since we don't yet have a full picture of that postcolonial identity in the first two-thirds of the novel, examine the novel's precolonial attitudes toward Igbo culture, religion, and justice systems, for instance, by discussing Okonkwo's exile, Uchendu's opinion of the Adame men, and the narrator's editorial comments about the egwugwu.
  3. Thinking about the Tortoise myth and the Igbo's initial attitude toward the white men at the end of our selection today, what does Things Fall Apart reveal about the politics and/or psychology of anticolonialist resistance?
  4. What does Things Fall Apart reveal about the operations of cultural difference—the ways in which race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, cultural beliefs, and customs combine to form individual identity—in shaping our perceptions of ourselves, others, and the world in which we live? What is your attitude toward Igbo culture, and how would you treat the Igbo if you visited their village? What do the Igbo think about the white men in the story so far, and how might they treat you?
  5. How does Things Fall Apart, a novel written in English, compare to canonical British and American novels that you've read? How does it treat character and plot, conflicts regarding the individual and society or the individual and nature, and Western cultural assumptions?
  6. Are there meaningful similarities among the literatures of different postcolonial populations? How does Achebe's novel compare to Wa'Thiongo's stories? to Walcott's poems? to Allende's novel? (Should it be compared to Allende's novel in terms of postcolonial literature?)
  7. How does Conrad's Heart of Darkness reinforce or undermine colonialist ideology through its representation of colonization and/or its inappropriate silence about colonized people?

10. Developing the Ethics Paper

The ethics paper is due one week from today. This series of in class and suggested out of class activities will help you brainstorm an idea and develop the paper. I strongly recommend that you break up the development and drafting of the paper into multiple sessions over the course of a week, rather than writing the paper in one sitting the night it is due.

11. Disgraceful Ethics, Part One

For our first day of discussion of J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace, let's analyze the ethical issues involved in David Lurie's sexual relationships by dividing into small groups to discuss a particular issue and report back to the larger class. Also, while in small groups, let's share and respond our ethics paper outlines. Sspend about 10-15 minutes providing thesis and outline feedback and about 10-15 minutes discussing the novel.


Ethics Paper Outline Feedback

Ethical Issues in the Novel

  1. Conduct a character analysis of David Lurie in general and of his ethics in particular.
  2. Discuss the (ethical) issues involved in David's relationship with Soraya.
  3. Discuss the (ethical) issues involved in David's relationship with Melanie Isaacs from David's perspective.
  4. Discuss the (ethical) issues involved in David's relationship with Melanie Isaacs from Melanie's perspective, understanding that the novel does not provide much of her point of view.
  5. Discuss the (ethical) issues involved in David's relationship with Melanie Isaacs from the university committee's perspective.

12. Disgraceful Ethics, Part Two

We did a good job of breaking down the ethics of David Lurie's sexual relationships last Monday, but the middle part of the novel takes a drastic turn into postcolonial issues. Today, let's break into seven small groups to analyze the import of the following passages:

  1. 'There was something so ignoble in the spectacle that I despaired. One can punish a dog, it seems to me, for an offence like chewing a slipper. A dog will accept the justice of that: a beating for a chewing. But desire is another story. No animal will accept the justice of being punished for following its instincts.' (90)
  2. 'Scapegoating worked in practice while it still had religious power behind it. You loaded the sins of the city on to the goat's back and drove it out, and the city was cleansed. It worked because everyone knew how to read the ritual, including the gods. Then the gods died, and all of a sudden you had to cleanse the city without divine help. Real actions were demanded instead of symbolism. The censor was born, in the Roman sense. Watchfulness became the watchword: the watchfulness of all over all. Purgation was replaced by the purge.' (91)
  3. He speaks Italian, he speaks French, but Italian and French will not save him here in darkest Africa. He is helpless, an Aunt Sally, a figure from a cartoon, a missionary in cassock and topi waiting with clasped hands and upcast eyes while the savages jaw away in their own lingo preparatory to plunging him into their boiling cauldron. Mission work: what has it left behind, that huge enterprise of upliftment? Nothing that he can see. (95)
  4. A risk to own anything: a car, a pair of shoes, a packet of cigarettes. Not enough to go around, not enough cars, shoes, cigarettes. Too many people, too few things. What there is must go into circulation, so that everyone can have a chance to be happy for a day. That is the theory; hold to the theory and to the comforts of theory. Not human evil, just a vast circulatory system, to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant. That is how one must see life in this country: in its schematic aspect. Otherwise one could go mad. Cars, shoes; women too. There must be some niche in the system for women and what happens to them. (98)
  5. The day is not dead yet but living. War, atrocity: every word with which one tries to wrap up this day, the day swallows down its black throat. (102)
    • Vengeance is like a fire. The more it devours, the hungrier it gets. (112)
    • What if, after an attack like that, one is never oneself again? What if an attack like that turns one into a different and darker person altogether? (124)
  6. More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa. Stretches of English code whole sentences long have thickened, lost their articulations, their articulateness, their articulatedness. Like a dinosaur expiring and settling in the mud, the language has stiffened. Pressed into the mould of English, Petrus's story would come out arthritic, bygone. (117)
  7. A distasteful word, it seems to him, double-edged, souring the moment. Yet can Petrus be blamed? The language he draws on with such aplomb is, if he only knew it, tired, friable, eaten from the inside as if by termites. Only the monosyllables can still be relied on, and not even all of them. // What is to be done? Nothing that he, the one-time teacher of communications, can see. Nothing short of starting all over again with the ABC. By the time the big words come back reconstructed, purified, fit to be trusted once more, he will be long dead. (129)

Applying Ethical Questions to Literature

Let's distill the most important concepts from John Deigh's Introduction to Ethics and turn them into questions concerning characters' actions and literary themes you can ask as you read poetry and prose.

  1. What Is Ethics?
    • What questions does the work of literature pose about right and wrong, death, and/or happiness?
    • What does the work suggest about living the best life and/or practicing justice?
    • Is the moral system in the literary work derived from a social institution or from a universal standard such as ideal reason? What are the moral norms or conventional morality of the people in the work? How would you describe the moral community(-ies) of the work?
    • Do characters act out of a sense of (deontological) duty or in (telelogical) pursuit of an end or purpose?
  2. Egoism
    • Do the characters wisely pursue happiness (egoism) and have goodwill toward others? If not, what external obstacles or internal conflicts hinder their pursuit?
    • Is a character hedonistic, i.e., does she pursue pleasures as a means to achieve happiness? If so, is her hedonism problematic?
    • Is a character perfectionistic, i.e., does she excel at things worth doing as a means to achieve happiness? If so, is her perfectionism problematic?
    • Do a character's actions stem from a desire to promote her own interests, as in the case of psychological egoism?
    • Are a character's actions motivated by "a desire for pleasure or an aversion to pain" (37)? Does the work distinguish between desire and pleasure? Does the work distinguish between sensory pleasure or pain and happiness or unhappiness?
    • What does the work suggest about achieving happiness through cooperative standards of conduct (the Hobbesian program), or, by contrast, the happiness of cheaters, despots, and other free-riders?
  3. Eudamonism
    • Do characters pursue well-being (eudamonism) rather than just happiness (egoism)? If not, what obstacles or internal conflicts hinder their pursuit?
    • What is the relation between right action and the highest good in the literary work? Do characters wisely pursue their well-being in terms of intellectual and/or moral excellence? If not, why?
    • Do the characters live their lives beyond animalistic appetites and brute emotions, i.e. higher human powers and higher faculties? Do they sublimate their desires and emotions into higher pursuits, such as "reason, imagination, and morality" (66)?
    • Do characters "[achieve] the highest good through the development of a well-ordered personality" (63) whose "constituent parts, reason, spirit, and appetite, work together harmoniously" (71)? Further, does reason regulate and constrain appetite (71)?
    • Do characters live the good life by living justly? Do governments or other social institutions practice internal, domestic justice and external, foreign justice through wise, well-ordered governance?
    • Are characters rationalist, motivated by rational thought and action over against animal appetite and brute emotion, or naturalist, motivated by reason which exists in accord with natural forces and conditions (77)? Does education develop their reason and sublimate their appetites? Do they lead complete and fulfilling lives through the exercise of reason? If not, why not?
  4. Utilitarianism
    • Do the characters work for the general good of humankind (utilitarianism)? Following Jeremy Bentham, do they "act as to bring about as much happiness in the world as [they] can in the circumstances [they] face" (95)? If not, what are their aims and why?
    • Do the characters calculate for each projected net balance of happiness and good over pain and evil each action would produce and then identify the right action (act utilitarianism, 95, 114)? If not, what is the moral calculus behind their actions?
    • Following John Stuart Mill, do characters primarily follow the Principle of Utility and the Greatest Happiness Principle yet still consider secondary rules of morality like justice and honesty in determining the right action under their particular circumstances (103)?
    • Are characters' actions determined to be right or wrong by the institutional rules of society governing the right rules for people to follow (rule utilitarianism, 111)? Further, are these institutional rules for the benefit of the general good, or do they serve particular groups of people?
  5. The Moral Law
    • Do characters or communities in the story derive their moral law through laws of nature arrived at by reason and conscience, or are they dutiful to God, arriving at the moral law, which establishes a peaceful and equitable social order, through revelation like reading scripture? Are characters' consciences conflicted, their sense of reason warped? Alternatively, are characters perverting the word of God and/or their duty to God?
    • Is the moral law in the literary text established through God's commands and prohibitions, as in divine command theory (128)?
    • Alternatively, is the moral law in the literary text established through self-evident fundamental standards of right and wrong known through rational intuition (134)?
    • Alternatively, is the moral law less speculative/theoretical as in rational intuition, and more practical and applicable, as in Kantian's imperatives, i.e., do characters apply principles of practical reason (141)? Do characters act out/upon principles which everyone faced in similar circumstances would act out/upon, i.e., the Kantian categorical imperative (145)?
    • Do characters follow maxims that exlude or include "references to cultural and legal aspects of their circumstances that people who are at home in the culture and accept the autority of government and the laws it enacts" (150)?
  6. The Ethics of Self-Determination
    • Do characters "find value in the satisfaction of their natural desires and personal interests" or are they "cognizant of the value that lawful action realizes" (Kant's sensuousness vs reasonableness, 159)? Are they conflicted between reason and sensuousness?
    • Do characters follow the version of the Categorical Imperative that states, "Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end" (161)? Or, do they have trouble treating others as a means rather than an end (164)?
    • Do characters follow the version of the Categorical Imperative that states, "Act only from a will that makes universal law though maxims" (168)? Or, do they have trouble with "autonomy of the will," i.e., are their internal wills compromised by external forces?
    • Do communities within the literary text adhere to "Kant's ideal of a kingdom of ends in which all rational beings are legislative members" (174)? Or, do they exclude some members from the community and/or the ends? Is self-government the basis of moral authority within the literary text's world, or is there a conflict regarding self-government and/or moral authority? (179)
    • From an existentialist framework, do characters' beliefs and actions result from active minds, i.e., conscious choice? Or, are characters passive in their beliefs and actions, i.e., unexamined belief and unconscious action (181-2)? Do characters assume the burden of responsibility for their choices and actions, or do they avoid and flee (182)? Do characters decide to act based on a concrete situation or do they justify their actions with abstract theories (185)? Do characters act with regard to their freedom, i.e., their personal autonomy, or not (186)?
  7. Practical Reason
    • How do characters use reason to decide how to act, i.e., practical reason? (This is in contrast to speculative reason, the theorizing about which teleological ends to pursue, like Aristotle's pursuit of well-being and the good.)
    • How and why do characters choose to do what they do? How do they evaluate their circumstances and the contingencies surrounding their actions? What is the underlying reason of characters' actions?
    • Describe the ways in which the characters are rational agents and the intents motivating their actions.
    • Are characters' reason "the slave of the passions," as Hume suggests (217)? How do characters' desires motivate their reasoning about how to act in the world? How does their sense of reason operate on their underlying feelings to create their overall morality (225)?
    • Following Kant, are the characters motivated by pure reason alone and act upon practical reason, rather than Hume's belief of deeper desires and feelings (227)?


The pop quizzes are designed to compel you to keep up with the reading. Quizzes cannot be made up. Instead, if you have an unexcused absence on a quiz day, you will receive a 0 on the quiz. If you have an excused absence (like illness with a doctor's note), the missed quiz will not be counted in the final average. You can calculate your average quiz grade here; and your average quiz grade will be returned to you with the final quiz.

Close Reading Paper

Analyze a key passage in a formal paper and presentation. Your essay and presentation should 1) do a line-by-line examination of the most important passage in the assigned work, interpreting it sentence-by-sentence through nuanced reading of (for example) figurative language, diction, connotation, and symbol, and 2) arguing the passage's centrality to understanding the core conflicts and overall theme of the work by explicating the fundamental conflicts with the particular lines of text. Your essay should be driven by a thesis that argues the work's theme and logically organized by close reading of the text: unpack the tension and conflict, connotation and significance, idea and theme. Your well-organized presentation should clearly convey your ideas to the class.

Individual or Collaborative Option

You may either write the paper and deliver the presentation on your own, or you may pair up to collaboratively compose the paper and presentation.


Sign Up

Sign up either individually or in pairs for an assigned text for which to compose a close reading. If you select an author with multiple or multiple discussion days, select a significant passage from the noted short story or chapter range.


Date Author 2:00 Section Students 3:30 Section Students

M, 1-23


1 Robert Hegi


M, 1-30


2 Isabel Godfrey

Angel O'Berry


3 Savannah Walker


W, 2-1

Diaz, Drown

4 Justin Poole


Diaz, How to

5 Lizzy Newman


W, 2-8


6 Matt Mercurio


W, 2-15


7 Madi Brillhart

Mary Alice Barrington / Emily Hinely

M, 2-27

Allende, Chapters 4-6

8 Kaitlyn Griffith / Klara Hodges


W , 3-1


Chapters 7-10

9 Brooks Hanson

Cory Fortner

M, 3-6

Allende, Chapters 11-Epilogue

10 Clair McQuaig


W, 3-8

Wa Thiang'o, Wedding

11 Patricia Morency

Ben Stokes

Wa Thiang'o, Meeting

12 John Haverland / Austin McMillan

Amanda Wiggins

W, 3-15

Achebe, Chapters 9-16

13 Grant Young

Sarah Holiman

M, 3-27

Achebe, Chapters 17-25

14 Quinn Rafferty

Josie Moody

W, 3-29


15 Dale Robinson

Baylee Berkner / Chloe Whitworth


16 Ann Margaret Irvin

Matthew Emmerling

M, 4-10

Coetzee, Chapters 10-17

17 Mallory Finley

Caleb Stevens

W, 4-12

Coetzee, Chapters 18-24

18 Lexie Pappas / Samantha Peacock


M, 4-17


19 Thomas Rader

Jarod Azzi


20 Andrew O'Conor

Tyler Schoolcraft

W, 4-19

El Saadawi

21 Isabel Godfrey

Laura Swarner


22 River Young

Ryan Agnew / Madison Riggs

Ethics Paper

The close reading paper asks you to determine the core conflict and overall theme of a literary work based on a rigorous analysis of a significant passage, the group project requires you to conduct literary research and summarize ethical issues of a literary work, and the in-class exam gives you options for comparing and contrasting issues in works of literature. The ethics paper requires you to write a sustained analysis of an ethical issue in a single work of literature we've read. Some questions your paper should consider include but are not limited to: What is the central ethical issue of the work? What are the two (or more) forces of the ethical conflict? How does the work resolve (or not) the ethical conflict? What resulting ethical message does the work convey? John Deigh's An Introduction to Ethics provides ethical concepts that I have translated into a series of ethical questions to ask literary works, and Lois Tyson's questions that postcolonial critics ask can easily be modified to highlight their ethical concerns.


For instance, Deigh's chapter on self-determination asks the abstract question of who should be self-governing. Self-governance is the central issue of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, as the Igbo's customs come into conflict with the white men's religion, government, and education. You could discuss what message about colonial control that the book conveys.


Your MLA formatted, well-organized, and thesis-driven paper should analyze textual evidence from both the work of literature and Deigh's An Introduction to Ethics or Tyson's "Postcolonial Criticism" and argue the ethical conflict, theme, and significance of the work.


The paper is due by midnight on Wednesday, April 5. Bring your laptop to class on that day because you will be given class time to ask any last minute questions and to revise your paper before submission.


Group Project

Groups of 4-5 will discuss the ethical questions and moral issues of a selected writer, research the writer, compose an annotated bibliography of scholarly criticism of the writer, and formally present their findings to class with an accompanying website, PowerPoint, or Prezi that includes


Note: Groups presenting on poets (Neruda, Walcott, and Darwish) should inform the professor if there are poems outside our textbook that they would like the class to read one week before the presentation so the professor can upload the poems to GeorgiaVIEW.

Sign Up

Sign up for a group project that is at least two weeks before or after your close reading presentation.


Date Author 2:00 Section Students 3:30 Section Students

W, 2-8


1 Robert Hegi


2 Austin McMillan


3 John Haverland


4 Lizzy Newman


W, 2-15


5 Lexie Pappas


6 Grant Young

Cory Fortner

7 Samantha Peacock

Madison Riggs

8 Ann Margaret Irvin

Angel O'Berry

M, 3-6


9 Dale Robinson



Baylee Berkner

11 Andrew O'Conor

Matthew Emmerling

12 Quinn Rafferty

Chloe Whitworth

M, 3-27


13 Brooks Hanson

Sarah Holiman

14 Klara Hodges

Josie Moody

15 Claire McQuaig

Amanda Wiggins

16 Kaitlyn Griffith / Mallory Finley

Laura Swarner

W, 4-12


17 Patricia Morency

Ryan Agnew

18 Madi Brillhart

Caleb Stevens

19 River Young


20 Justin Poole

Tyler Schoolcraft

W, 4-26


21 Isabel Godfrey

Ben Stokes

22 Matt Mercurio

Jarod Azzi

23 Savannah Walker

Mary Alice Barrington

24 Thomas Rader

Emily Hinely

In Class Midterm Exam

In the first exam, taken in class on Monday, February 20, you will write 2 thesis-driven comparison/contrast essays selected from 5 questions written by the professor based upon topics generated by the class on Monday, February 13.


Here is a suggested study plan:

  1. For each literary author read, compose notes that include the main characters, the core conflict, and the theme(s).
  2. Using Deigh's Ethics: An Introduction, determine which ethical issues the literary work explores. (Note that not all ethical theories apply to all texts.)
  3. Note what, if anything, the literary work says about the exam topics generated by the class, below.

Here is a list of who we have studied in the first half of the course:

  1. Celan, poetry
  2. Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  3. Márquez, "Death Constant Beyond Love"
  4. Naipaul, "One Out of Many"
  5. Kincaid, "Girl"
  6. Diaz, "Drown" and "How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie"
  7. Neruda, poetry
  8. Walcott, poetry

Here are the topics generated by the 2:00 section on Monday, February 13:

  1. morality
  2. ethical definitions and principles
  3. cultural identity of fictional characters and poetic speaker
  4. how characters handle conflict and adversity, or not
  5. historical and social forces

Here are the topics generated by the 3:30 section on Monday, February 13:

  1. cultural clash of immigration
  2. cultural oppression
  3. evaluating the ethics of characters actions
  4. sexuality and gender issues
  5. fictional characters' and poetic speakers' reactions to issues and struggles with new experiences


The in class essay exam is closed book. Do not use an author or text in more than one essay (in other words, if you discuss Naipaul's short story in one essay, you may not analyze it in another essay). Not all works are appropriate for all essays. Choose works which afford adequate material to address the question at hand. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the works. Organize essays by argument and analysis. Make connections and distinctions among the works; compare and contrast the works' key ideas. Support your points with textual evidence; avoid plot summary. The OWL provides additional suggestions for essay exams. You will be graded on your interpretive understanding of the texts as well as your ability to compare and contrast meanings and issues.

Take Home Final Exam

While the first exam covered the first half of the course in a closed book, timed format, the second exam is a take home test covering the literary works from the second half of the course (Allende, Wa Thiang'o, Achebe, Aidoo, Head, Coetzee, Mahfouz, Pamuk, El Saadawi, Al-Shaykh, Darwish). We will brainstorm topics in class on Monday, April 24; and then I will generate comparison/contrast essay questions from those topics on Wednesday, April 26.


Answer 2 of the 4-6 questions below. Do not use an author in more than one essay; use two different authors' works in each essay, for a total of four authors covered across two essays. Not all authors' works are appropriate for all essays. Choose works which afford adequate material to address the question at hand. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the works. Make connections and distinctions among the texts; compare and contrast the works' key ideas. Support your points with textual evidence (pertinent quotations); avoid plot summary. Organize essays by argument and analysis. You will be graded on your interpretive understanding of the works as well as your ability to compare and contrast meanings and issues.


Here is a list of who we have studied in the second half of the course:

  1. Allende, The House of the Spirits
  2. Wa Thiang'o, "Wedding at the Cross" and "A Meeting in
  3. Achebe, Things Fall Apart
  4. Aidoo, "Two Sisters"
  5. Head, "The Deep River: A Story of Ancient Tribal Migration"
  6. Coetzee, Disgrace
  7. Mahfouz, "Zaabalawi"
  8. Pamuk, "To Look Out the Window"
  9. El Saadawi, "In Camera"
  10. Al-Shaykh, "The Women's Swimming Pool"
  11. Darwish, poetry

2:00 Section Topics and Questions

3:30 Section Topics and Questions


Optional Final Exam

You have taken 11 reading quizzes, written two papers (close reading, ethics), researched an author's work (group project), presented your work to the class twice (close reading, group project), and written two exam essays (midterm exam). Given that 75% of the course grade is already accounted for before the exam, most course grades are fairly certain; however, some are on the bubble. Therefore, you have the option to either take the final exam or opt out of the final exam. If you choose not to take the final exam, then the assignment grade weights will be redistributed as follows:

Use the grade calculation spreadsheet to compare your probable grade if you take the exam and your definite grade if you do not. If you choose to opt out of the final exam, write a message in the comment box and/or upload a file called "Opt Out" to GeorgiaVIEW > Course Work > Assignments > Final Exam by the exam due date.