Introduction – What is “sin,” and why does it still seem to have such a hold on the modern imagination? With its connotations of transgression, violation, decadence, and even evil, sin has been a central literary concept in writing both religious and secular. The Seven Deadly Sins were listed in the early middle ages and would become a central theme in works by authors like Aquinas, Dante, and Milton. Yet even today we see the sins as an important theme in novels, film, and essay. This course will examine the ways in which sin has been historically depicted across writings both canonical and classical, as well as current and contemporary. As an introduction to literature we will be using the language of sin as our critical vocabulary, examining how authors have used this concept in building character, structuring narrative, and constructing phrases. This is first and foremost a course that is an introduction to literature and to writing, and not a religious studies or theology course. As such, while we will inevitably discuss those subjects, our central task is to investigate what it means to think in a literary way and how to improve your writing. What does it mean to “think in a literary way?” As a subset of critical thinking, literary thinking allows us to explore texts with an eye to historical and cultural contexts, through specific rhetorical maneuvers, and by investigating the ways in which narrative logic work to construct particular interpretative meanings.
(You will need these books in roughly this order. I have chosen the editions I did for particular reasons, if you are using a different edition please check with me first).
Sin and Syntax: Crafting Wickedly Good Prose (Three Rivers Press) by Constance Hale
Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (Oxford World Classics) by Christopher Marlowe
Fight Club (W.W. Norton) by Chuck Palahniuk
Othello (Pelican Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare
The Virgin Suicides (Picador) by Jeffrey Eugenides
Bartleby the Scrivener (Melville House) by Herman Melville
Schedule of readings and assignments
All readings and assignments due on the date that is indicated
(Note: This is a tentative schedule, and it is subject to change).
Tuesday August 25th – Introduction to course.
Thursday August 27th – Discussion on what sin is, and how we define each one. Read introduction to James Boyce’s Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World as well as well as the introduction to Lawrence Cunningham’s The Seven Deadly Sins: A Visitors Guide – Optional showing of David Fincher’s Se7en (1995) at 5PM in Drown 220. Students unable to make the viewing must watch film on their own, and write a 300 word response due by Monday at Noon.
Tuesday September 1st – Read Act I of Dr. Faustus and “Enduring Pride” by Eric Michael Dyson
Thursday September 3rd – Read Act II of Dr. Faustus. Read “Introduction” and “Nouns” from Sin and Syntax (ix-34).
Tuesday September 8th – NO CLASS – MANDATORY STUDENT CONFERENCES WITH ME. Read Act III of Dr. Faustus.
Thursday September 10th – Read Act IV of Dr. Faustus and David Riggs’ “Introduction” from The World of Christopher Marlowe, available on CourseSite.
Tuesday September 15th – Read Act V of Dr. Faustus Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation” (available on CourseSite).
Thursday September 17th – Read Robert Thurman’s introduction to Anger and chapter 1-6 of Fight Club.
Tuesday September 22nd – Read chapters 7-17 of Fight Club and “Pronouns” (35-59) from Sin and Syntax. “Students unable to make the viewing must watch film on their own, and write a 300 word response due by Monday at Noon.
Thursday September 24th – Read chapters 18-23 of Fight Club and “Verbs” (60-80) from Sin and Syntax.
Tuesday September 29th – Read chapters 24-30 of Fight Club and “Adjectives” (81-95) from Sin and Syntax.
Thursday October 1st – In-class writing workshop/peer review. All students must come with at least two copies of their first paper rough draft.
FIRST PAPER DUE – Monday October 5th (By Noon).
Tuesday October 6th – Read Act I of Othello and Marjorie Garber essay from Shakespeare After All (588-616) available on CourseSite. Optional viewing of Sam Mendes The Talented Mr. Ripply at 5PM in Drown 220, students who are unable to attend must write a 300 word response to the film and turn it in by Noon the next day.
Thursday October 8th – Read Act II of Othello and “Not Jealousy” (1-9) from Envy by Joseph Epstein.
Tuesday October 13st – NO CLASS – PACING BREAK
Thursday October 15th – Read Acts III and IV of Othello and “Adverbs” (96-105) in Sin and Syntax.
Tuesday October 20th – Read Act V of Othello and Marjorie Garber’s “Othello: The Persistence of Difference” (154-177) available on CourseSite. Optional showing of Milos Forman’s Amadeus (1984) at 5PM in Drown 220, students who are unable to attend must write a 300 word response to the film and turn it in by Noon the next day.
Thursday October 22nd – Read Phyllis A Tickle’s “Prologue: Being a Bit of Context” from Greed and the “Introduction” to Jordon Bellfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street as well as Phillip Pullman’s translation of Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm’s “The Fisherman and his Wife,” all available on CourseSite.
Tuesday October 27th – NO CLASS – MANDATORY STUDENT CONFERENCES WITH ME
Thursday October 29th – In-class writing workshop/peer review. All students must come with at least two copies of their second paper rough draft, and read “Prepositions” (106-122) in Sin and Syntax.
Monday November 2nd – SECOND PAPER DUE (By Noon).
Tuesday November 3rd –Read first chapter of Virgin Suicides and “Conjunctions” (123-136) in Sin and Syntax.
Thursday November 5th – Read second chapter of Virgin Suicides Read Introduction and “Desire” from Simon Blackburn’s Lust.
Tuesday November 10th – Read third and fourth chapter of Virgin Suicides and “Interjections” in Sin and Syntax.
Thursday November 12th – Read fifth chapter of Virgin Suicides, In-class writing workshop/peer review. All students must come with at least two copies of their second paper rough draft.
Tuesday November 17th– Read all of Bartleby the Scrivener and Wendy Wasserstein’s “Introduction” from Sloth.
Thursday November 19th – Read Francine Prose’s “Introduction from Gluttony and “Prologue,” “Criadillas: Brussels vs. the Bull’s Balls,” and “Epilogue” from The Devil’s Picnic: Travels through the Underworld of Food and Drink by Taras Grescoe.
Tuesday November 24th – In-class viewing of Barry Rothbart and Jeff Cerulli’s Hungry.
Thursday November 26th – THANKSGIVING – NO CLASS
Tuesday December 1st – In-class writing workshop/peer review. All students must come with at least two copies of their third paper rough draft.
Thursday Decmber 3rd – THIRD PAPER DUE, last day of class, reflections, discussion and class evaluation.
Friday December 13th – FOURTH PAPER DUE.