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Poetics of Power

ENGL 093.920
instructor(s):
TR 1-4:00

In this course we will explore ideas about power as they are reflected in selected literary texts, ranging from ancient Greece to the modern era. We will examine ideas about power in the context of those who are traditionally empowered and "from the bottom up," listening to the voices of those who feel power's effects and inequities most acutely. Among the issues we will discuss are: What is Power? Where does it originate? How does it differ from closely related concepts like "authority," "right," and "sovereignty"? What are power's effects? How does power relate to the central categories of race, gender, and class? How does power affect love and sex: how do they affect it? What role does religion play in struggles for power? What is power's relation to virtue and to truth? As we tackle these and many more questions, we will be seeking both perennial and carefully historicized answers to the problem power raises, looking for "universals" while differentiating between our contemporary experiences and lives far removed from our own in circumstances, distance, and time. Among the authors we will read are Sophocles, Machiavelli, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Percy, Shelly, Frederick Douglass, and Virginia Woolf.