Philosophy and Literature
The problem of living authentically.
1. Apply the philosophical views you have encountered in this course to the problem of how to live a life that is authentically one's own.
2. Consider how fictional lives, or memoirs of other people's lives, can provide insight to the project of living one's own life.
3. Make use of scholarly references in the areas of philosophy, biography, or literary criticism, and practice the library skills necessary to locate and evaluate such sources.
4. Make a clear and concise presentation of the literary content and of relevant philosophical issues.
5. Present a clear and persuasive argument for your own evaluation of how the issues you take up should inform how we live our lives .
APPROACHES YOU MIGHT CONSIDER (choose one)*:
q Examine some pieces of literary criticism that question the authenticity of the authorial voice in one of the memoirs we have read (i.e., McCarthy, Nafisi, Hoffman, Kingston, Rodriguez). Assess the standards these critics use to judge "authenticity", and discuss whether these standards are more likely to help or impair the living of a good life.
q Examine some pieces of literary criticism that discuss the authenticity of the narrative voice in one of the pieces of fiction we have read (i.e., Chesnutt, Melville, Alexie, Hosseini). Assess the standards these critics use to judge "authenticity", and discuss whether these standards are more likely to help or impair the living of a good life. Consider to what extent authenticity is important in a fictional work, and how fiction might provide a resource for our real lives.
q Examine a biography of one of the memoirists we have read. Discuss the differences between his or her own view of his or her life and the view of the biographer. In particular, is the memoirist's own view more reflective of who she or he really is? What role do the memoirist's blind-spots, misrememberings, and revisions of history play in the project of living authentically?
q Many of the literary works we have read deal with the problem of being an alien in the larger society. Choose two of these works and discuss the extent to which this problem is a particular or a universal one. Consider the question of who the authors' intended audience is, and what the author wants that audience to understand. Is there something useful we can get out of these works if we are not part of the intended audience? (Be sure to draw on some literary criticism or biographical information in developing your answer).
*If you are interested in a general topic not on this list, you need to clear it with me!