Ethical Experience, Premodern Drama

Course Number: ENGL 231
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 231
Quarter: Winter 2018
Instructor: Kearney, James
Day(s): W
Time: 12:30pm - 3:00pm
Location: SH 2714
Description:

What is it like to be enjoined to avenge your father’s murder? What does it feel like to demand proper burial rites for your brother in defiance of the state?  This course will explore ethical experience in relation to premodern and early modern theater.  Our object of study here is not ethical discourse in its traditional, top-down guise; instead our focus will be more phenomenological, with an emphasis on the ethical as lived experience and on theater’s attempts to capture or conjure or discover or create forms of ethical experience.  The literary texts we will discuss may include Sophocles’ Antigone, Seneca’s Agamemnon, the Towneley Abraham, Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, and Shakespeare’s King Lear.  In our conversations about theater’s attempts to stage ethical experience, we will discuss key moments in the history of ethical thought, touching on figures like Aristotle and Seneca, Montaigne and Kierkegaard.  We will also attend to more recent interventions in ethical thought, including those of Judith Butler, Adriana Cavarero, Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas, and Martha Nussbaum as we discuss topics ranging from recognition and the ethical problem of other minds to sacrifice and obligation, from agency and the nature of decision to contingency, precarity, and moral luck.