Fall 2011 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Turner Fred
Discipline and Number
LIT 3300 Section 501
M Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Western Literary Tradition

Description of Course:

The Western Literary Tradition: Nature and Human Nature

In the West the eternally vexed question of whether human beings have a nature at all, and if so, what is that nature, has never gone away. It is evident in the earliest human cave-paintings and is the core theme of the oldest known piece of human literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh. It energized the poets, the dramatists, the Greek philosophers, the European Renaissance, the American founders, and the Romantics. It reappears today in the three-way argument among social constructionists who deny the existence of an essential human nature, evolutionists who see our nature as that of just another animal, and creationists who believe we have a supernatural "nature" as well as a natural one.

In parallel with this old controversy there has been an equally ancient argument about the nature of nature itself. What are species of things? Are they fixed--can they change? Is reality that which moves and changes, or that which does not? What is matter made of? Where did it come from, or has it always existed? Are inanimate, living, and conscious beings essentially different? Are we part of, or different from, nature? Can values and laws be derived from nature?

The class will investigate these questions and poetic themes using a wide variety of texts, a version of the Socratic method of investigation, and readings by the class.

Required Texts:

This book list is tentative, but it will give a rough idea of the readings for the course.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Penguin Classics
ISBN: 978-0140441000

The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Oxford U.P.
ISBN-10: 0195288807
ISBN-13: 978-0195288803

Sophocles: Oedipus the King trans. Bernard Knox Pocket Books Washington Square Press, 1994
ISBN: 0677888048

Plato: The Republic, ed. C.M.A Grube, Hackett

Lucretius: On the Nature of Things, Focus Publishing
ISBN-10: 0941051218
ISBN-13: 978-0941051217

The Riverside Shakespeare

John Milton: Paradise Lost, Norton

Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species, Signet
ISBN: 0451529065

Ferguson, etc, eds: The Norton Anthology of Poetry
ISBN: 0-393-96820-0

Frederick Turner: Genesis: An Epic Poem, Ilium Press

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:

Each class will begin with or end with a quiz on the week's reading. Students will be expected to keep up with a fairly heavy reading schedule, attend all classes from start to finish, and be prepared to speak in class.

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