The paper should address the theme of ‘Ethics and Art,’ which brings together the readings from the fourth part of our course (Xingjian, Borges, Lispector, Achebe).
I would like you to write a short essay of 1000 to 1200 words (in Times New Roman -12 point font, 1.5 spacing, with a Title at the beginning, and a Works Cited page at the end).
Again, you are asked to take a position on one (or two) of the readings and/or stories that we have examined in this fourth part of the course.
What this means is that you can write your paper entirely on one of the readings or stories from Part IV of the course:
1. Gao Xingjian (The Case for Literature)
2. Jorge Luis Borges (The Secret Miracle)
3. Clarice Lispector (Love (“Amor”))
4. Chinua Achebe (The Madman)
Or, you can compare two of the readings/stories:
1. Xingjian and (any of the stories)
2. Borges’ The Secret Miracle and Lispector’s Love (“Amor”)
3. Lispector’s Love (“Amor”) and Achebe’s The Madman
4. Achebe’s The Madman and Borges’ The Secret Miracle
As before, the main point of the assignment is that you take a position in your essay on the reading(s), and/or, story (or stories).
In close detail, and from the texts that we have read, clearly and accurately describe the main ethical issues presented in the story (or stories), and/or, the reading.
Also, how do you personally relate (or not) to the characters in the story, or to the reading itself?
Above all, as you were required to do in your previous papers, take a clear argumentative position, and argue for it convincingly throughout your essay.
Suggested Questions and Topic:
As before, you are free to develop your own original topic for the essay, as it relates to the readings we have read in this fourth part of the course.
You are also free to bring back certain theories and ideas from earlier parts of the course, if they will help to strengthen your main thesis (i.e., any of the philosophers that we have looked at in the course).
Here are two suggested essay topics that may help to guide you with the assignment.
1. (Ethics and Literature)
How is the theme of ethics central to Gao Xingjian’s essay and Nobel lecture, The Case for Literature (2000)? What are the main ideals and qualities that Xingjian argues are essential for an individual writer? How have the politics and history of the twentieth century affected Xingjian’s ideas about ethics and literature? And finally, and most importantly, do you agree or disagree with Xingjian’s views about ethics and literature, and why?
2. (Short Stories and Ethics)
Each of the three stories that we have read presents an individual in the midst of an ethical “crisis.” Each story also asks us to reflect upon this crisis in relation to the four themes of our course (ethics and knowledge, ethics and the individual, ethics and society, and ethics and art).
In “The Secret Miracle” (1944), by the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, we find a character, Jaromir Hladik, who is sentenced to death by a firing squad, during the Second World War in Prague.
In “Love (“Amor”)” (1960), by the Brazilian author, Clarice Lispector, we follow a day in the life of a woman who experiences a strange “crisis” on a tram in Rio de Janeiro.
And in “The Madman” (1972), by the Nigerian novelist, Chinua Achebe, we follow the events in the lives of two villagers who each go into town to a market.
In your essay, choose One or Two of the stories, and answer the following questions:
i). What is the central “crisis” that the main character(s) experiences in the story? And how do you interpret the crisis and the character’s actions in relation to ethics?
ii). Does the story (or stories) you choose to write about in your essay remind you of any of the ethical themes and questions that we have examined so far in the course, and how? (i.e., are there any clear ethical theories and philosophers that come to mind from our readings?)
iii). How did the story (or stories) affect you as a reader? How did it make you feel? Does the way the story is written influence your interpretation? And if so, how might the aesthetic qualities of the story be understood in relation to the main ethical themes and questions that we have been examining in the course?
(As always, please remember to use examples from the text to support your arguments).