Fall 2023

Narratives of Suffering

Listed in: English, as ENGL-304


Geoffrey D. Sanborn (Section 01)


It’s possible to imagine people who have not yet suffered, who have not yet had a peculiarly intense and sustained experience of physical or psychic pain. Those imaginary people are, however, vulnerable to future suffering. Even more importantly, they live in a world in which many others suffer, so many that a refusal to attend to suffering amounts to a refusal of a meaningfully relational existence. Thinking and feeling in response to suffering is, accordingly, an inescapable aspect of what Henri Bergson describes as “a really living life.” But how do we respond to suffering, whether in others or in ourselves? How do we take it in without appropriating it? How do we express it without turning it into a spectacle? These questions and others like them are difficult, but the aim of this course is to generate an intellectual and emotional atmosphere in which we can be transformed by the process of taking them up. Readings include The Book of Job, King Lear, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sanborn.

How to handle overenrollment: If over-enrolled, enrollment will be by permission of the instructor, on the basis of written account of need and desire for the class.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Learning how to read closely and with emotional intelligence; learning how to augment the experience of reading through informal reflective writing and class participation; learning that all ideas are associatively connected to other ideas and that there are powerful alternatives to state-illustrate-restate arguments. There will be pre-class writing assignments, two papers, and an emphasis on the quality of the contributions to class discussion. There will be no quizzes or exams.

ENGL 304 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM CONV 207
Th 2:30 PM - 3:50 PM CONV 207


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2023