Syllabus

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This class continues our study of the foundational texts of human culture, focusing on early modernity until the recent past. In many ways, this includes several questions such as: Why did these works achieve the fame and influence they achieved? How do they present what it means to be a human being? How do they describe the role of a member of a family, community, tradition, social class, gender? How do they distinguish between proper and improper behavior? How do they characterize the members of other groups? However, in several ways, these texts are also iconoclastic, breaking with centuries of established tradition to shed light on previously unexplored subjects, such as the status of women in society or the legacy of the colonial expansion of European countries. They also question well-established social beliefs like religion, monarchical rule and human nature in general.

Class Rules

  1. Class attendance is mandatory.
  2. You are expected to prepare yourself for each class by doing the reading for each session in advance.

Assignments

  1. A minimum of 20 pages of writing, in 3–5 assignments.
  2. Revision and resubmission of at least one of the assignments.
  3. An oral component.

This course will be reading and writing-intensive. Each week, you will be required to submit two questions that you have come up with that you think will enrich our class discussions the next day.

You will have three writing assignments. These 7–8 page essays will be based on essay questions that will be handed out in class a week prior to the submission date. You are expected to formulate a coherent argument and support it with material from the books that you have read. For more information, please see the Assignments section.

You will need to revise one of your first two essays; you may choose which one. You must revise at least one of your first two papers.

You will also be responsible for a brief (15–20 minute) oral presentation on the topic of your choice.

Textbooks

Xuegin, Cao. The Story of the Stone Vol. 1. Translated by David Hawkes. Penguin Classics, 1974. ISBN: 9780140442939.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty and the Subjection of Women. Nabu Press, 2010. ISBN: 9781146671996.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Translated by Walter Kaufmann. Vintage, 1989. ISBN: 9780679724650.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. ISBN: 9780393304510.

Tagore, Rabindranath. Broken Nest and Other Stories. Translated by Sharmistha Mohanty. Westland Limited, 2009. ISBN: 9788189975630.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness and Other Tales. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780199536016. [Preview with Google Books]

Salih, Al-Tayyib, and Tayeb Salih. Season of Migration to the North. NYRB Classics, 2009. ISBN: 9781590173022.

Grading

ACTIVITIES PERCENTAGES
Essay 75% (25% for each essay)
Class participation (includes oral presentations) 25%

MIT Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism—use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT website on Plagiarism.

Calendar

LEC # TOPICS KEY DATES
1 Introduction  
2

Diderot, Denis. Supplement du Voyage du Bougainville.

Montesquieu. Persian Letters, Letters 25–30.

 
3 Kant, Immanuel. “What is Enlightenment?”  
4 Xuegin, Cao. The Story of the Stone Vol.1. Translated by David Hawkes, chapters 1–7.  
5

Xuegin, Cao. The Story of the Stone Vol.1. Translated by David Hawkes, Penguin Classics, 1974, chapters 8–16. (cont.)

Paper topics distributed.

 
6 Xuegin, Cao. The Story of the Stone Vol.1. Translated by David Hawkes, Penguin Classics, 1974, chapters 17–26. (cont.)  
7

Smith, Adam. The Wealth of Nations, Chapters I–IX and Books I–V.

Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto, chapter I.

First paper due
8 Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty: The Subjection of Women, chapters 1–3.  
9

Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species.

First papers will be checked and returned.

 
10 Nietzsche, Friedrich. Preface, part 1 (1, 6, 9, 23), part 2 (24, 26, 29, 36, 44), part 3 (52, 59, 61), part 7 (238–239), part 9 in Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future.  
11 Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Revised papers due
12 Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. (cont.)  
13

Tagore, Rabindranath. Broken Nest and Other Stories. Translated by Sharmistha Mohanty.

Paper topics distributed.

 
14

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, Introduction.

Do Women Like Child Care More Than Men?New York Times, March 22, 2012.

 
15 de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex, Conclusion. Second paper due
16 Kincaid, Jamaica. Girl. (PDF)  
17

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness.

Second papers will be checked and returned.

 
18 Salih, Al-Tayyib, and Tayeb Salih. Season of Migration to the North: A Novel.  
19 Salih, Al-Tayyib, and Tayeb Salih. Season of Migration to the North: A Novel. (cont.)  
20

neversaidb4. “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (part 1).” June 24, 2008. YouTube. Accessed November 16, 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1-Bbz_TBMc.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism, pp. 1–92.

 
21 Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish, pp. 3–8, 195–228.  
22

Arendt, Hannah. “Reflections on Violence.”

 
23

Milgram, Stanley. “The Perils of Obedience” and Marcus, Steven. “Authority and Obedience” In Representations: Essays on Literature and Society.

Zimbardo, Philip G. Stanford Prison Experiment. 1971.

 
24

Chaplin, Charles. Modern Times. 1936.

Lang, Fritz. Metropolis. 1927.

 
25 Last day of classes. Final paper due

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Written Assignments