Course level: Undergraduate
In his Republic, Plato famously banishes the poets from the ideal city, and thereby establishes the traditional separation of literature from philosophy, fiction from truth, and logical argument from persuasion. By examining the literary style of selected philosophical texts, as well as the philosophical significance of various literary works of art, students will focus on how different modes of writing are able to address traditional questions of philosophy and to illuminate significant features of human existence. Could philosophy itself perhaps be understood as a literary enterprise? And what is the philosophical significance of literary works, written in poetic or narrative form, that explore the same aspects of human experience that are also studied by philosophers who use more prosaic modes of writing? Students explore these questions in relation to such literary and philosophical authors as J.M. Coetzee, Stanley Cavell, Gustave Flaubert, Iris Murdoch, Martha Nussbaum, Shakespeare, and others.