"While we look up to heaven, we confound / Knowledge with knowledge.
Oh, I am in a mist!" So says one of the characters in one of the
great tragedies of Shakespeare's period. The issue he articulates is
one that has agitated dramatists and other writers from the very
beginnings of western literature. The relationships between god (or
the gods) and the people whose lives they seem to control has been
testy, and it has been tested, again and again. This class will look
at both classic and more modern investigations of this relationship.
Texts will include plays and other dramatizing forms ranging in period
from ancient Greece and the early modern period up through very recent
times (all to be read in English). Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides,
Shakespeare, John Webster, Henry Adams, and Roberto Calasso will be
among the writers we read, all of whom considered the various ways
in which human beings have confronted their gods over time. Students
can expect to be assigned two short papers during the term and one
long one at its end (in place of a final exam).