Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Dangerous Writers

ENGL 100.401
  • Satisfies the College General Education Sector III (Arts and Letters) requirement
    Satisfies the Introductory Course requirement of the Comparative Literature major
  • Counts toward the Elective requirement of the English major
  • Literature does not exist for your protection.  So dangerous is it, that Socrates argued poets ought to be banned from his ideal Republic.  And Socrates himself--one of the most subversive of all poetic thinkers--was condemned to death for corrupting the young with his speeches.  All great literature is unsettling and alarming.  Along with its beauty and delicacy and rhetorical power and ethical force, it can be terrifyingly sublime and even downright ugly: full of contempt and horror and grandiosity and malice.  From Socrates's day to our own, countless writers have been jailed, exiled, and murdered, their works censored, banned, burned, for daring to say what others wish would remain unsaid--about religion and the State; sexuality, gender, and the body; art, science, and commerce; freedom and order; love and hate--and for saying it in ways that are aesthetically innovative, surprising, seductive, ravishingly unanticipated.  We will read a broad range of the world's greatest and most dangerous writers, such as Saint Paul, Shakespeare, and the Marquis de Sade; Emily Dickinson, James Baldwin, and Jean Genet; Confucius, Sigmund Freud, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; Tom Paine, Henry David Thoreau, and Jacques Derrida; very recent works might include Alaa Al Aswany's beautiful novel The Yacoubian Building, which helped bring down Egypt's Mubarak regime, and Kathryn Harrison's formally brilliant and jaw-droppingly frank incest-memoir, The Kiss.  Taking this course will introduce you to fundamentals of literary style, form, and history, and to approaches to reading and interpretation.  Taking this course will also mean paying close attention to your own writing, in a series of brief essays in which you'll learn better how to meet the demands of college-level writing while striving always to be a dangerous writer yourself.


fulfills requirements
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major