Fall 2012

Narratives of Suffering

Listed in: English, as ENGL-304


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


“The word ‘suffer,’” Nietzsche writes, is something that we “set up . . . at the point at which our ignorance begins, at which we can see no further.”  What makes suffering especially mysterious–and especially attractive as an element of story-telling–is that it both escapes secure designation and refuses to be ineffable; it is a Thing, neither fully beyond nor fully within our ken.  It provokes a desire to give it shape and a desire to do no more than approach its shapelessness; it occasions humanitarian crises and stands beyond them as an unbudgeable element of existence; it rings like a pure gold coin and like an alarm bell that cannot be shut off.  In this course, we will be studying a series of thematically connected but wildly different works that model especially suggestive ways of approaching this phenomenon.  Readings will include the Book of Job, King Lear, Emily Dickinson’s poetry, Owen Chase’s shipwreck narrative, John Hersey’s Hiroshima, Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Fall semester.  Professor Sanborn.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2019, Fall 2021