English 40-3 - Spring, 2022

Introductory Topics in Literature

Topic: Philosophy and/as Literature

Class Information

Instructor: Connally, Kenneth
CRN: 62143
Time: MWF 3:10-4:00
Location: 125 Olson
GE Areas: Writing Experience


Academic philosophy nowadays tends to be disseminated through highly technical journal articles and conference presentations that seem to have very little in common with imaginative literature. Yet the classic works of philosophers from Plato to Sartre have often taken the form of dialogues, essays, didactic poetry, and fictional narratives, making a distinction between "philosophy" and "literature" difficult, if not impossible, to draw. In this course, we will investigate this blurred boundary, asking what happens when we approach philosophical texts as literature or read literary texts like philosophers.

The course is divided into halves organized thematically around "questions of knowledge" (epistemology) and "questions of action" (ethics and political theory), each of which will be introduced by a selection from Plato's Republic. In the first half of the course, we will consider texts engaged with issues related to skepticism and the philosophy of science, including Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well, Margaret Cavendish's atomic poems, and selections from Montaigne, Francis Bacon, and Lucretius. In the second half, we will examine Utopian narratives from Thomas More to Ursula K. Le Guin and N. K. Jemisin.


Discussion: 5%
Quizzes: 10%
Midterm: 15%
Final: 20%
Short Essays & Revisions: 20%
Term Paper: 30%


The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
Utopia, Thomas More
All's Well That Ends Well, William Shakespeare
Canvas Course Reader with selections from Plato, Montaigne, Cicero, Bacon, Lucretius, Hobbes, Rawls, and Jemisin