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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Raimonda Modiano
ENGL 205
Seattle Campus

Method, Imagination, and Inquiry

Examines ideas of method and imagination in a variety of texts, in literature, philosophy, and science. Particularly concerned with intellectual backgrounds and methods of inquiry that have shaped modern Western literature. Offered: jointly with CHID 205.

Class description

Subject: Contracts of the Heart: Gift and Sacrifice Course Description: In capitalistic societies which value private property, what explains the survival of the economy of gift exchange which presupposes that everything one possesses can be given away and is owed to others? Why does one give and return gifts, when there are no legal constraints to engage in this practice? Is the gift an exercise in generosity or self-interest, altruism or power-play? Do the bloody rites of sacrifice originate from the practice of giving gifts to the Gods, and if so, is the sacred always linked with violence? How can one contain violence in cultures where the founding myths, as in Christianity, are myths of sacrifice? Can people form communities without uniting against a designated scapegoat? These and other related questions will form the subject of this course which will deal with foundational texts in anthropology, psychoanalysis and sociology, and examine the representation of gift and sacrifice in biblical myths, literature, folklore, painting and film. Students are expected to learn a great deal about the constitution of communities, ancient and contemporary, the origin and practices of religion, and about forms of misrecognition in daily practices of gift and sacrifice. Literary texts include plays by Aeschylus and Shakespeare, short stories by Shirley Jackson and O. Henri, and poems by William Wordsworth, Samuel taylor Coleridge and Lord Byron. We will also view and discuss three films, The Merchant of Venice, Babette's Feast and Breaking the Waves.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Instruction will include lectures, student group reports and daily discussion of assigned readings. There will also be two social gatherings at my house for informal sharing of ideas.

Recommended preparation

Students need to come to class prepared to raise questions based on their readings of the assigned texts. Most of the texts will be new to students and much learning will take place in class through lectures and discussion.

Class assignments and grading

Assignments include 1 group report, two 1 hour tests (on theories of gift and sacrifice)and one paper written in two stages, as a draft and a final version.

Grades will reflect a student's growth during the course and are not calculated mathematically. It is expected that through supervised preparation for tests and revisions of paper, students will score grades between 3.5 and 4.0.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Raimonda Modiano
Date: 08/14/2006