Ethics and Literature: The Problem of Evil
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Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: School of Undergraduate Studies
Course Number: NLIT 3434
Course Format: Lecture
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
- Ethics & Social Responsibility
In The City of God, Saint Augustine confronts a central problem: How did evil come into the world if human beings were created good? In this course, we explore the question of evil through a study of texts ranging from biblical to modern. With Dostoevsky and Kafka, we travel on the dark side of life, examining crime, transgression, and nightmarish systems. We explore a number of theoretical perspectives, from Augustine’s notion of the "evil will" to Nietzsche’s standpoint "beyond good and evil" to Arendt’s thesis of the "banality of evil." Through our study of the ethical universe of literary texts, we engage with questions essential to humanity, including the nature of human beings, the basis for moral conventions, individual and collective responsibility, goodness versus happiness, and guilt, forgiveness, and redemption.