English R1A

Reading and Composition: Beyond Good and Evil

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2009 Kerschen, Paul
MWF 9-10 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart; William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell; Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Henry James, The Turn of the Screw; James Joyce, Dubliners; Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; a Course Reader containing poems, stories, essays and critical articles.


This course takes its title from Friedrich Nietzsche’s book on the "philosophy of the future," in which he argues that traditional moral categories no longer apply to the modern world. In this course we will test that claim. After a brief look at good and evil as understood in Homer, Dante and Milton, we will turn to modern texts which seek to rework these moral categories for their own time. We will ask what is gained and what is lost along the way - as good and evil become more doubtful and provisional, to what extent can they be judged at all? This inquiry will give us a vantage point on some of the monumental changes in Western culture and society over the last two centuries.

In addition to reading and enjoying these works, we will work hard on skillful writing about literature. Students will learn to read closely and carefully, to construct solid theses and arguments, and to deploy the resources of the English language to express their insights with clarity, conviction, and verve. Course assignments will include at least 32 pages of writing divided among several short essays; peer editing and revision will be mainstays. This course fulfills the first half of the university's reading and composition requirement.

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