CLAS 496 B: Special Topics

Meeting Time: 
Joint Sections: 
GERMAN 385 A, CHID 498 C, PHIL 301 A, C LIT 357 A, GERMAN 285 A, LIT 298 A
Ellwood Wiggins

Syllabus Description:

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: The Rhetoric of Compassion


Prof. Ellwood Wiggins,, Office Hours (Denny 338): M 2-4, Th 11-12

TA: Verena Kick,, Office Hours (Denny 400K): M 11:30-12:20, W 1:30-2:30

Is compassion the foundation of human morality or a dangerously unreliable emotion? This course examines the strategies and motivations in different media of fostering empathy for commonly held enemies or discriminated groups. We examine the ways that casting minorities as objects of pity can strategically forward, but structurally undermine, the project of creating a more open and tolerant society. The syllabus runs from Ancient Greece to depictions of Nazis and terrorists in modern film, and considers philosophical assessments of sympathy alongside examples of its aesthetic manufacture. Half of our readings are in moral philosophy (e.g., Aristotle, Cicero, Rousseau, Adam Smith, Kant, Nietzsche, Arendt), and in each case we use the literary text or film (e.g., Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Lessing, Eliot, Brecht) as a kind of experimental field to evaluate the philosophers’ concepts and claims about the moral efficacy of compassion. Students will also work creatively to engender sympathy in four genres (rhetoric, drama, narrative, film).

This course engages in team-based learning. Students will complete three projects that include both creative and analytical components. Groups work to engender sympathy for a 'bad guy' in four genres: a speech, a scene, a story, and a visual project. During the final, groups will present their project to the class.

This course will count toward Diversity Credit, and (depending on which section) VLPA and/or I&S. Cross-listed with: Comparative Literature, Philosophy, German, Classics, CHID.

Syllabus (Course Description and Policies)

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

Catalog Description: 
Offered occasionally by visitors or resident faculty.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:23pm