The following courses are directly relevant to the Philosophy, Religion, and Literature minor, and can be taken for course credit in the minor. If there are courses beyond this list which you think are relevant, and for which you would like to receive PRL course credit, please contact either Professor Susannah Monta OR Professor Christopher J. Shields, co-directors of the minor.
Dante and Aristotle
Shane Duarte & Michelle Karnes
In this course, we will be reading Dante's Commedia as well as works by Aristotle and various ancient and medieval philosophers. Our aim will be to understand the way an Aristotelian worldview informs the Commedia. We will look at the cosmology of the work and how it responds to ancient and medieval theories of the cosmos. We will also investigate the ethics of Dantess famous journey to hell, purgatory, and heaven with a view to identifying its Aristotelian elements. For instance, what is the role of pleasure in the ethical life? What is the highest good of the human being? How should human beings live in such a way as to achieve their highest end? All readings will be in translation.
When European Romanticism crossed the Atlantic, it precipitated American Transcendentalism, this nation's first great literary movement. The Transcendentalists were a loose group of rebels, dreamers, and freethinkers who, inspired by both the American Revolution and the new European philosophies, set about the immodest task of remaking America - and thence, they hoped, the world. Inspired by resistance to their radical ideas, these men and women - including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Henry David Thoreau, Orestes Brownson, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May Alcott -launched a daring movement to renew American religion and philosophy and create a new and genuinely American literature - and, as if that weren't enough, to reform a nation shot through with the contradictions of slavery, economic inequality, social injustice and environmental destruction. Did they succeed? Was their idealism a noble dream destroyed by the violence of the Civil War? Or did their hard work bring real progress to an American society still indebted today to this band of dreamers? That's our dilemma: both answers are correct. How are we still living the consequences of their failures, and their successes? Can their dreams still speak to us today, in our own moment - shot through as it is with so many similar contradictions?
Religion and Literature
What is religion? What is literature? And why should we study them together? This course (a gateway seminar for the PRL minor) will provide a rigorous introduction to the study of religion and literature. Readings will be drawn primarily from the Western tradition, and authors will include Augustine, Dante, Dostoevsky, Flannery O'Connor, and Jorge Luis Borges.