English R1B

Reading and Composition: The Conscience

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Fall 2013 Ding, Katherine
MWF 10-11 225 Wheeler

Book List

Augustine: Confessions of Augustine; Coetzee, J. M.: The Master of Petersburg; Dostoyevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment; Freud, Sigmund: Civilization and its Discontents; Hacker, Diane: Rules for Writers; Plato: The Last Days of Socrates; Shakespeare, William: Macbeth; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray;

Recommended: Strom, Paul: Conscience: A Very Short Introduction


This course explores how writers and philosophers have grappled with notions of the “conscience” throughout western literature. Far from being a static, universal or unchanging concept, “the conscience” has a long, dynamic, and sometimes contradictory history. The writers we will focus on imagine the conscience as meditating the relationship between the self and the community, sometimes dictating proper social behavior for an individual (for instance, conscience as a moral judge), while at other times setting the individual against social consensus (for instance, conscientious objection). These texts posit different suggestions for the origin of the conscience, ranging from the voice of God, to the internalization of social mores. Many of them foreground the difficulty of interpretation—that is, figuring out precisely what the conscience is saying and how to respond to it.  Although we will by no means attempt to cover every aspect or every turn of its evolution, we will explore some of the complexities at play in this shifting concept.  

This class is structured as a workshop to hone reading skills and to guide students through the various skills needed to write a research paper. To that effect, students will write three formal papers: a 2-3 page diagnostic essay that does not require outside research, a 5-7 page research paper with set topics, and a 7-9 research page paper on a topic of your choice. In addition, students will be turning in informal reflections (0.5-2 single spaced pages) based on the readings every week in which no paper is due.

Back to Semester List