C LIT 200
Reading, understanding, and enjoying literature from various countries, in different forms of expression (e.g., dramatic, lyric, narrative, rhetorical) and of representative periods. Emphasis on the comparative study of themes and motifs common to many literatures of the world.
“Is Antigone our contemporary?” In order to answer this question, students in this class will cross cultures and genres in order to become familiar with the social, political, and cultural contexts in Europe, the United States, and South Africa that produced an Antigone, and with the literary genres through which the tragic heroine has made herself known: drama, poetry, and prose. Comparing Sophocles’ Antigone with other plays – Jean Anouilh’s Antigone (1943), Jean Paul Sartre’s The Victors (1946) and Albert Ramsdell Gurney’s Another Antigone (1988) – we will examine how theatrical conventions of tragedy resonate with critical paradigms such as existentialism and feminism. We will then analyze nineteenth-century poems by Matthew Arnold and George Meredith, and Anne Carson’s twenty-first century “The ‘Ode to Man’ from Sophocles’ Antigone,” focusing on the way in which Victorian lyrical expression reflected on or reacted against Victorian individualism and how contemporary poetry exposes the dangers of wasteful consumerism. We will end our examination of the myth of Antigone with Gerd Gaiser’s short story Antigone and the Garden Dwarf and Paul Haggis’ film In the Valley of Elah (2007), which revisit the topic of honoring the dead, even in the face of inconvenience. By understanding how fundamental values remain the same, even when presented differently in different contexts, students will learn to appreciate similarities and respect differences as the most crucial aspect of our world.
By reading relevant critical texts on tragedy, starting with Aristotle’s Poetics, continuing with Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, and ending with George Steiner’s Antigones, students will learn about how the tragedy was performed originally, as well as the genre development. Practicing both critical and creative skills, they will realize that literature is more than a collection of texts; literature is also a critical analysis of a given society that reflects the ideology of the author. Each author and genre will be examined through lenses of a theoretical text. We will read excerpts from Jacques Lacan’s The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Judith Butler’s Antigone’s Claim: Kinship between Life and Death, and articles “Between Myth and History: The Tragedy of Antigone” by Lucy Irigaray and “Antigone’s Kin: From Abu Ghraib to Barack Obama” by Donald E. Pease.
For this class, students will write two 7-page comparative essays. We will build up these long essays by writing short response papers for each literary work discussed in class.
Practicing both critical and creative skills, students will realize that drama is more than a text or a performance; it is also a critical analysis of a given society that reflects the ideology of the author. Students will also practice critical thinking by writing argumentative essays. By participating in the perpetuation of a long cultural tradition, students will understand better why Sophocles’ Antigone fascinated nineteenth- and twentieth- century thought, and why it continues to appeal to the twenty-first-century readers, critics, and film makers. We will end our examination of the myth of Antigone with Paul Haggis’ film In the Valley of Elah (2007), which revisits the topic of honoring the dead, even in the face of inconvenience.
Student learning goals
1. To read and analyze Sophocles’ tragedy with a focus on the complex interaction between the chorus, actors, and spectators. By reading relevant critical texts on tragedy, starting with Aristotle’s Poetics, continuing with Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, and ending with George Steiner’s Antigones, students will learn about how the tragedy was performed originally, as well as the genre development.
2. To formulate persuasive arguments about the tragedy, its philosophical approaches, and contemporary issues inspired by Sophocles’ tragedy. Students will take into consideration potential counterarguments before they produce their own argument and define their critical positions.
3. To write analytical essays on individual rights and community values, one of the most important aspects of this text, which opened up the debate of these issues almost twenty-six centuries ago. The final essay will crown the students’ efforts to write concise, yet convincing, response papers which may be incorporated, although not necessarily, into the longer assignments.
The course Sophocles’ Antigone: His Text, Our Values emphasizes the universal values which people share across cultures and eras. By understanding how fundamental values remain the same, even when presented differently in different contexts, students will learn to appreciate similarities and respect differences as the most crucial aspect of our world.
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
PAPERS Writing a paper on the myth of Antigone and its cultural transformations is by definition a challenge, both in terms of both choosing the topic and structuring the approach. You may develop the points we make during our in-class debates into academic papers, which should make use of the critical readings in the course packet. Papers, of 7 pages, will follow the MLA style for in-text citations and will have a Works Cited list at the end.
Paper 1 The Tragic in Antigone of Sophocles, Anouilh, and Sartre
Although critics are unanimous that Antigone is the tragic heroine of Sophocles’ eponymous play, some consider that Creon is also a tragic hero in his own right. Using the excerpts from Aristotle, Nietzsche, Lacan, as well as Fletcher’s article, write an essay in which you argue if Creon is or is not a tragic character in Sophocles’ play and to what extent he is transformed in Anouilh’s tragedy. Identify the characters which correspond to Antigone and Creon in Sartre’s The Victors and analyze their tragic substance. MLA Style, 7 pages
Paper 2 Away from the Ancient Myth of Antigone: Gurney, Gaiser, and Haggis
Write a paper comparing the way in which Gurney’s play, Gaiser’s short story, and Haggis’ movie responded to Sophocles’ Antigone. You also analyze how the medium – stage, text, film – contributed to the promotion of civic values as epitomized in Sophocles’ tragedy. Make sure that you use the theoretical texts by Judith Butler, to strengthen your argument. MLA Style, 7 pages
GRADING In-class participation, paper 1, and paper 2 will have an equal weight towards the final grade.
ATTENDANCE: Attendance is strongly recommended since 1/3 of your final grade represents your active participation in our in-class discussions and activities.