Reading for Ethics in Literature

This class starts in a couple of weeks. Although I took a couple of philosophy classes back in the seventies at UMBC, where we discussed ethics, there the readings were abstract and the examples were overly simplified. Here the moral issues are in concrete worlds of multiple dimensions. After considering the moral issues in the fictional worlds, we’ll be in a position to generalize to our world.

  • The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins. Good, active read. Immersion into character and action. Clear motivations, sensible in light of the initial situation and characters’ history.
  • Frankenstein. Mary Shelly. Denser read. Gothic, action is mainly in narrative summary, not immediate scenes. Momentum of story comes from Viktor Frankenstein’s reactions to the story happenings, not the happenings themselves.
  • The Things They Carried. Tim O’Brien. Stories of a Vietnam vet dealing with the difficulties of reconciling war experiences and normal life.
  • The Burial at Thebes. A reworking of Sophocle’s Antigone by Seamus Heaney. A pure conflict between legality and morality, also the binary phantom of “You are with us or you’re against us.”

As a writer, I’m interested in how the author’s achieve their effects as well as the moral dimensions of the conflicts. I’ve read all four books now and have highlighted lines I find especially powerful for the papers I’ve have to write.

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