May 18, 2024  
College Catalog 2024-2025 
    
College Catalog 2024-2025

ENGL 265 - Literature and Human Rights


This course is an introduction to the study of literature and human rights. We will seek to better understand the contemporary norms and practices of human rights by examining its deep historical contexts, and by considering the philosophical and religious debates that continue to shape human rights theory and practice. We will also examine theories of trauma and torture, personal accounts of human rights and humanitarian fieldwork, representational ethics, and studies of human rights in film and media. We will scrutinize relevant literary texts as works of art, as case studies in human rights, and as models for understanding how words can change the world, whether in the form of human rights reports and newspaper accounts or of poems and novels. We will seek to better understand how spectators of suffering develop (or fail to develop) empathy for distant persons or for persons considered alien by also examining how they can so palpably feel for the dreams, desires, and dignity of fictional persons. In The Defense of Poesy Sir Philip Sidney describes the tyrant, Alexander Pheraeus, “from whose eyes a tragedy well-made and represented drew abundance of tears; who without all pity had murdered infinite numbers, and some of his own blood, so as he that was not ashamed to make matters for tragedies, yet could not resist the sweet violence of a tragedy.” What is the line that separates those who are merely moved from those who are moved to act? When does the story become real enough to change you? Our list of authors will span the range of intellectual and ethical endeavor, from ancient Greek plays and philosophy to contemporary US literature. Alternate years. (4 Credits)