Course Number: PHE 505 Course
Title: Narrative and the Moral Life
Dr. David Arias, firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Course Description
This course examines the ethical influence of stories by focusing on philosophical analyses of narrative and the moral life. Topics may include: the sources and limits of narratives’ moral power; their nature and structure; principles for the ethical evaluation of stories and their readers; and stories in Catholic spirituality.
2. Envisioned Learning Outcomes
1. The student will be able to evaluate competing claims about the sources and limits of the moral power of narratives and narrative self-reflection in light of philosophical truths about God and the human person.
2. The student will be able to describe key elements of narrative and articulate the art of story-
telling as a work of practical reason.
3. The student will be able to evaluate particular narratives by articulating and applying principles
of ethical criticism as a work of practical reason in light of the friendship metaphor.
Note: Readings and assignments are tentative; check lessons pages on the course site for up to date information and for links to many of the readings.
Week 1: The Story of Our Lives: Narrative and the Intelligibility of Human Action
Alasdair MacIntyre, from “Virtues, the Unity of a Human Life and the Concept of Tradition,” After Virtue, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 204-217; Randall G. Colton, Repetition and the Fullness of Time: Gift, Task, and Narrative in Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Ethics (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2013), 7-35.
Assignment Listen to audio presentation on the week’s topic
Week 2: Prudence and Poetry: The Narrative Form of Desire, Perception, and Emotion
Selections from St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae; Wayne C. Booth, The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1988), 265- 291; Martha C. Nussbaum, from “Narrative Emotions: Beckett’s Genealogy of Love,” Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (NY: Oxford University Press, 1990), 286- 297. Assignment
Listen to audio presentation Week 3: Story Is Not Enough: The Limits of Narratives
Readings Colton, Repetition and the Fullness of Time,
Assignment Listen to audio presentation
Week 4: The Art of Storytelling: Narrative as a Work of Practical Reason
Flannery O’Connor, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” and “Writing Short Stories,” Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, ed. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald (NY: The Noonday Press/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1957; repr. 1990), 63-106; Jacques Maritain, “Art as a Virtue of the Practical Intellect,” Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry (NY: Pantheon Books, 1953), 44-65. Assignment
Listen to audio presentation Week 5: A Story’s Bones: Some Elements of Narrative
Readings Booth, from The Company We Keep, 138-153
Assignment Listen to audio presentation
Week 6: The Power of Figures and the Measure of Metaphor
Readings Booth, The Company We Keep, 293-355
Assignment Listen to audio presentation
Week 7: Humor and Moral Vision
Readings John Lippitt, “Is a Sense of Humor a Virtue,” The Monist 88.1 (2005), 72-92. (This resource is available online at the HACS library; if the embedded link doesn’t take you to the text, then go to the HACS library site and search author and title under “Philosopher’s Index.” Contact Clare Adamo [email@example.com] for further help). Assignment
Week 8: Is Art in the Moral Realm?
Noel Carroll, “Art and Alienation” and “Art and the Moral Realm,” in Art in Three Dimensions (NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 143-162. (This resource is available online at the HACS library; if the embedded link doesn’t take you to the text, then go to the HACS library site and search author and title under “EBSCOhost Ebook Academic Collection.” Contact Clare Adamo [firstname.lastname@example.org] for further help). Assignment
Listen to audio presentation. Listen to audio presentation Week 9: The Perils of Stories
Readings Sylvia Walsh, from Living Poetically: Kierkegaard’s Existential Aesthetics (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), 167-181. Assignment
Listen to audio presentation Week 10: The Art of Reading: Ethical Criticism as a Work of Practical Reason
Readings Booth, The Company We Keep, 49-79 and 81-122; Martha C. Nussbaum, “Reading for Life, “ Love’s Knowledge, 230-244 (This resource is available online at the HACS library; if the embedded link doesn’t take you to the text, then go to the HACS library site and search author and title under “EBSCOhost Ebook Academic Collection.” Contact Clare Adamo [email@example.com] for further help).
Assignment Watch video presentation
Week 11: The Varieties of Friendship
Aristotle, from The Nicomachean Ethics Assignment
Listen to audio presentation
Week 12: Discriminating Among Friends
Readings Booth, from The Company We Keep, 201-223
Assignment Listen to audio presentation
Week 13: Talking About the Virtues
Kreeft, from Back to Virtue, at http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0017.html Assignment
Watch or listen to presentations Week 14: How to Be a Friend to Your Books: Virtues of a Good Reader
Readings Alan Jacobs, A Theology of Reading: The Hermeneutics of Love (Westview Press, 2001) 9- 14, 31-33, 64-67, 113-124, 138-144 (This resource is available online at the HACS library; if the embedded link doesn’t take you to the text, then go to the HACS library site and search author and title under “EBSCOhost Ebook Academic Collection.” Contact Clare Adamo [firstname.lastname@example.org] for further help); St. Basil the Great, “Address to Youth,” beginning on page 6; and a summary of C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism. Assignment
Watch video presentation
Week 15: Inhabiting the Christian Story
Robert Wilken, “The Lives of the Saints and the Pursuit of Virtue,” First Things (December 1990).
Assignment Listen to audio presentation
4. COURSE REQUIREMENTS
Your grade depends on your fulfilling three sorts of requirements:
Discussion Board Posts (30%)
Discussion Board posts are due each week, except for the first three weeks and last three
weeks of the term. For each of the remaining weeks of the semester, you will be responsible for at least one post, of about 300 words, in the form of an insight about the week’s reading or a response to another student’s insight or question (including responses to illustrative posts described in number 3 below). If a prompt is provided, please respond to at least one of the questions it contains; otherwise you may construct your post according to your own insights or perplexities. One post each week will count towards completion of this assignment; but of course please feel free to submit as many posts as you like. Our class weeks begin on Monday and end on Sunday; discussion board posts
are due each week by midnight on Sunday night. The lowest grade in this requirement will be dropped. Some hints: Stay on topic. Direct our attention to the particular places in the text that give rise
to your comments. Be courteous. Try to do something with the material; don’t just summarize. Criticize, question, apply, compare, and so on.
a. For those enrolled as graduate students: Paper (40%)
1. Description: Write a paper of 2000-2500 words (about 5-7 pages) investigating
either 1) an evaluative criticism of a story from a book or film, applying the principles for ethical criticism presented in class; or 2) a comparison of two books or of a book and film, using the principles presented in class; or 3), with approval, a theme from the philosophical analysis of stories or the relation between stories and the moral life. Consultation with the professor is advised. I expect a philosophical essay that articulates a central question, perplexity, criticism, or interpretive claim; elucidates or defends the central issue by providing appropriate reasons; and reveals close engagement with the relevant texts. 2. Due dates: I suggest you turn the paper in by Sunday at midnight in Week 9 (either attach a PDF to an email to me or upload a PDF to the file share section of the site). If you do, I will provide feedback and give you a chance for a re-write without penalty; submit revisions, using the same methods, by Thursday at midnight in the last week of the term. If you turn the paper in by Sunday at midnight in Week 12 using the same methods, I will provide some feedback, but the paper will not be eligible for a re-write. If you turn the paper in by Thursday at midnight in the last week of the term (using the same methods), I will provide only a grade and the paper will not be eligible for a re-write. No papers will be accepted after Thursday at midnight in the last week of the term. 3. Note well: All papers should be prepared according to the standards in the
HACS Style Sheet, available at the On-line Writing Lab. Using the OWL’s other services as well can help you achieve your best on this assignment.
b. For those enrolled as undergraduates: Annotated bibliography (40%)
1. Description: Prepare a 5-7 item annotated bibliography of stories from various sources. You may use books, movies, TV shows, etc. Each entry will consist of one paragraph of summary, giving some indication of plot and character—as if you were describing a story for a friend—and one paragraph in which you provide an ethical evaluation in terms of the principles and interpretive questions we discuss throughout the semester. The finished bibliography should be about 5-7 pages long. 2. Due dates: I suggest you turn the bibliography in by Sunday at midnight in Week 9 (either attach a PDF to an email to me or upload a PDF to the file share section of the site). If you do, I will provide feedback and give you a chance for a re-write without penalty; submit revisions, using the same methods, by Thursday at midnight in the last week of the term. If you turn the paper in by Sunday at midnight in Week 12 using the same methods, I will provide some feedback, but the bibliography will not be eligible for a re-write. If you turn the bibliography in by Thursday at midnight in the last week of the term (using the same methods), I will provide only a grade and the bibliography will not be eligible for a re-write. No papers will be accepted after Thursday at midnight in the last week of the term.
3. Note well: All bibliographies should be prepared according to the standards in the HACS Style Sheet, available at the On-line Writing Lab. Using the OWL’s other services as well can help you achieve your best on this assignment.
Illustrative posts (30%):
1. Description: Graduate students will be required to make two posts and
undergraduate students will be required to make one post during the semester that presents and illustrates at least two key themes or insights from the previous week’s discussion by reference to a narrative of the student’s choice from any media. These posts should be longer than the posts required as the first assignment; aim for about 1000 words or about 3-4 pages. Each post should include 1) a description of a narrative, 2) an articulation of at least two key insights or themes, and 3) a connection between the first two. You may show how the narrative illustrates the theme, or how the insights help one to a deeper appreciation of the narrative, or so on. The Info page contains a brief week by week overview of themes and topics that may help you to determine when you would like to submit your assignment. I can help you with some suggestions for complementary narratives if you would like some help.
2. Due dates: Illustrative posts must be submitted by the end of the week after the
material illustrated is presented in the course lessons; this will help to ensure that the ideas are still fresh in everyone’s mind.
5. REQUIRED READINGS and RESOURCES:
• Booth, Wayne C. The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1988).
• Colton, Randall G. Repetition and the Fullness of Time: Gift, Task, and Narrative in Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Ethics (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press), 2013. For students of this class, Mercer University Press is offering a 20% discount plus free Media Mail shipping. Click on the link above to find the book on the Mercer University Press website and enter the code “Facebook”; the 20% discount applies to the entire order. You may also place your order by calling toll-free 866-895-1472 or directly at 478-301-2880. Mercer only accepts MasterCard and Visa. 6. SUGGESTED READINGS and RESOURCES:
• See the course bibliography on the Info page of our website.
Please note: No late grades will be accepted.
(Basis of evaluation with explanation regarding the nature of the assignment and the percentage of the grade assigned to each item below). Students who have difficulty with research and composition are encouraged to pursue assistance with the Online Writing Lab (available at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl).
A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 D 60-69; F 59 and below
A rubric for discussion board posts
• An A post engages the text or comment with specificity and clarity, offering some new insight, thought, or question that has special excellence or merit.
• A B post responds directly to the text or comment, is clear, and offers some new insight, thought, or useful question.
• A C post responds in general to the text or comment but in confusing ways or without doing much more than repeating information already given or applying a general laudatory remark (e.g., “Wow! Great insight!”).
• A D post is off subject almost entirely and/or is incoherent or impolite.
• An F post is missing.
8. ACADEMIC HONESTY POLICY
Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.
In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own. At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends Students:
• Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
• Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
• Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
• Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl/resources).
Consequences of Academic Dishonesty: Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously. Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.
9. ATTENDANCE POLICY
Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology- mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required to be in class 3 hours a week and prepare for class discussions 4.5 hours a week. Expect to devote at least 7 quality hours a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.
10. INCOMPLETE POLICY
An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the
course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.
To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student. Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.
Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete and must receive the grade that they have earned. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course. A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.
11. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR
Dr. David Arias holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of St. Thomas (Houston) and Master's degrees in both Theology and Philosophy. He is a Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, NE. Prior to teaching in Nebraska, Dr. Arias taught for eleven years at Thomas Aquinas College in Ojai, CA.
Appendix: Weekly Summaries
Prudence, Providence, and Poetry: The Power of Stories in the Moral Life
1. The story of our lives: Narrative and the intelligibility of human action
Stories have their great power in our lives because 1) our actions themselves make sense only in narrative perspective and because 2) our lives are already stories written by divine Providence and our happiness lies in learning how to play our role and inhabit the story in which we find ourselves.
2. Prudence and poetry: Narrative and the practical syllogism
The virtue of prudence (a reflection of God’s Providence) enables us to tell and enact the story of our own lives, and in our engagement with narratives we exercise the powers that are central to prudence. Thomas models the reasoning characteristic of prudence in the practical syllogism, and an examination of its prerequisites reveals the presence of the narrative form in a variety of ways. In particular, interacting with stories gives us practice in desire, perception of particulars, foresight, emotional response, and discernment of the requirements of the natural law.
3. Story is not enough: The limits of narrative
Contemporary critics of the moral significance of narrative locate its limits in its tendency to self-deception, hubris, over-simplification, triviality, and confusion about the nature of personal identity. Kierkegaard’s thought can provide some resources for overcoming these objections, and also for more precisely identifying the limits of narrative in the intersection of time with eternity. A narrative context endows human actions with meaning; but, in turn, the presence of the eternal in the passing moments of our narratives endows them with significance, giving our moral lives a defining context over and above the stories in which they play out.
The Teller and the Tale: The Nature and Work of Stories
4. The art of storytelling: Narrative as a work of practical reason
The work of the storyteller is not so much the task of self-expression as of craftsmanship. Storytelling calls for the practical intellectual virtue of art, in a performative and deliberative mode, and directed by a desire for the beauty and order of the thing to be made, which can then be offered to the reader as a gift.
5. A story’s bones: Some elements of narrative
The elements of any story include: a teller and a tale; a beginning, a middle, and an end; plot, characters, and point of view; genre identity; nonce beliefs and fixed norms. Evaluating a storyteller’s art and our own engagement with his craft requires us to understand these diverse elements in their nature and function.
6. The power of figures and the measure of metaphor
Images and metaphors demand an energetic engagement from the reader and so more powerfully shape him in the experience of reading.
7. Humor and Moral Vision
Humor is an important tool of the storyteller, and carries with it a moral perspective, so understanding its function is a significant part of understanding how stories work, both in terms of art and prudence.
Stories as Friends: Evaluating Narratives and Readers
8. Is art in the moral realm? On the alleged amorality of fiction
Should we evaluate stories in a moral light? Some insist that art never enters into the moral realm, remaining instead in a purely aesthetic domain. So a moral evaluation of stories, in this view, amounts to little more than a kind of philistine censorship. But several reasons can be offered on behalf of the moral significance of narrative.
9. The perils of stories
Even if one grants that stories are morally significant, it might seem that narrative as such might have a negative significance. How can stories – by their very form – be dangerous to our moral development? What are their risks? And how should we respond to them?
10. The art of reading: Ethical criticism as a work of practical reason
If storytelling is a performative art enacted in the medium of signs, then reading or interpreting a story is also a performative art, aimed at the good of the thing made by actualizing its potential for goodness, truth, and beauty. Reason in this context is not syllogistic and yet is not relativistic either; it is, in Booth’s terms,”coductive” or, in Blessed Newman’s, an exercise of the “illative sense.”
11. The varieties of friendship
Stories offer us the gift of friendship, but friendship and its gifts come in many forms, as Aristotle and St. Thomas saw. The variety of friendship may be articulated along two axes, either in relation to the end sought by the friends—utility, pleasure, or the comprehensive good of the other—or in relation to the communicatio or the nexus in which the friends’ activities bring them near to each other. Evaluating stories as friends requires us to think through these different dimensions of friendship.
12. Discriminating among friends
The different kinds of friendship-gifts offered by stories vary along many dimensions, such as intimacy, intensity, quantity, mutuality, coherence, philosophical and theological assumptions, and so on; and by describing and comparing them along these dimensions, we can discern those that are better for us and from those that are worse.
13. Talking about the Virtues
Virtues and vices dispose us to actions and emotion; stories are especially apt for the display of actions and emotion; and so stories offer a particularly important opportunity for naming, analyzing, and studying virtues and vices, as well as comparing the grammars of different virtue traditions.
14. How to be a friend to your books
Being a good reader requires a certain kind of character, a set of skills, virtues, desires, concerns, and so on. And being a good Christian requires love of neighbor, even in the neighbor found in a text. How can one read lovingly and still responsibly?
He Spoke in Parables: Stories and Catholic Spirituality
15. Inhabiting the Christian story
Tolkien calls the Gospel a fairy story that has entered history; understanding how stories work can aid us in learning from the lives of the saints and in entering into the mysteries of the life of Christ so as to grow from the particular graces found in each of them.