Comparative Literature 340.52/Philosophy 394.58

Hunter College, Spring 1997

Instructor: David A. Goldfarb
MTh 9:45-11:00, Hunter North 341B

30 Jan.—Introduction

3 Feb.—Longinus, On the Sublime

6 Feb.—Longinus (cont’d)

10 Feb.—Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful

13 Feb.—Burke (cont’d)

20 Feb.—Burke (cont’d)

24 Feb.—David Hume, “Of the Standard of Taste”

27 Feb.—Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, First Part, “Critique of the Aesthetical Judgement”

3 Mar.—Kant (cont’d)

6 Mar.—Kant (cont’d)

10 Mar.—Kant (cont’d)

13 Mar.—Kant (cont’d)

17 Mar.—Kant (cont’d)

20 Mar.—William Wordsworth, Preface to the Lyrical Ballads; The Excursion, Prospectus and Book I (“The Wanderer” also known in an earlier version as “The Ruined Cottage”). SHORT PAPER DUE.

24 Mar.—Wordsworth (cont’d); Dorothy Wordsworth, selections from the Alfoxden and Grasmere Journals.

27 Mar.—Byron, “The Prisoner of Chillon”; John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “To Autumn”

31 Mar.—P. B. Shelley, “Ozymandias,” “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty,” “Ode to the West Wind,” “The Cloud,” “To a Skylark”

3 Apr.—Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs

7 Apr.—Sacher-Masoch (cont’d), Freud, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle”

10 Apr.—Gilles Deleuze, “Coldness and Cruelty”

14 Apr.—Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

17 Apr.—Dostoevsky (cont’d)

28 Apr.—Dostoevsky (cont’d); Kant, The Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals

1 May.—Expressionism in the visual arts: Manifestoes and examples

5 May—Expressionism in poetry: Gottfried Benn, Józef Wittlin

8 May—Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition

12 May—Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, “Parergon”

15 May—Derrida (cont’d)


Grades will be weighted as follows:

 Participation 20%
 Short Paper   25%
 Final Paper   55%


All papers are optional for auditors.

READING—The readings above are listed as they will be discussed in class and should be read in advance of the day they we will cover them. You are advised to begin assembling the reserve readings early in the term, to avoid the rush as they come up for discussion.

SHORT PAPER—You will receive a list of topics for a 5-page paper, in which you will be asked to explain a key aspect of Kant’s aesthetic theory in relation to his important predecessors, Longinus and Burke. This is not a research paper, but will require a careful reading of the Critique of Judgement. The short paper is due 20 March 1997.

FINAL PAPER—In about 10 pages, analyze an aesthetic work in terms of Kant’s theory of the sublime. The work you select need not be from the reading list, and it may be from any aesthetic genre that you feel competent to discuss (architecture, cinema, drama, fiction, industrial design, music, poetry, popular culture, visual art, etc.). You should strive in your paper to answer one of the fundamental questions of the course: Should art and literature serve concrete human needs or does art have its own ends? Do we strive for aesthetic feelings associated with pain rather than pleasure? What are the ethics of art? Is the Good also the Beautiful? Is the greatest art incomprehensible by definition? What is the role of the frame in visual art and literature? Can we talk about the beauty of nature in the same way that we talk about beauty in art? Are there compelling psychological explanations for human aesthetic feelings? ...and other questions that emerge in the course of class discussion. The final paper is due 22 May 1997.


This portion of your grade includes your productive oral participation in class, attendance, any ungraded in-class assignments, the extent to which your written assignments reflect that you are listening actively in class, and the improvement in your work over the course of the semester. Students enroll in the class with varying degrees of preparation. Even if you enter the class with a strong background in the subject, you must demonstrate that you are learning something from this class in order to do well in it. If you are studying the subject for the first time, do not fear that you will forever be lagging behind the more advanced students. Hard work will be rewarded!

You are strongly encouraged to discuss your papers, as well as all of the assignments, with me at my office hour, Mondays after class. There will be no opportunities for extra credit, but if you would like to improve your performance on the written assignments, I will always accept drafts in advance, to be returned ungraded with comments and suggestions. Most students who turn in drafts and take the suggestions seriously learn a good deal about writing and improve their assignments by one-half to a full grade. If you would like feedback on your final paper before handing in the final draft, I will accept drafts for comment up to 12 May 1997. The final paper is due in my office before the end of classtime 22 May 1997. If you would like to receive your paper back by mail, please provide a self-addressed stamped envelope with sufficient postage.


25 September 2005