University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

ENGL 607.87- Literature and the Moral Life

Instructor: Dr. Clara Joseph
Schedule: Tuesday 12:30-3:15

Course Description:

The course traces the link between literature and the moral life. It examines key ethical problems: evil, relativism, utilitarianism, the virtues, meaning, and justice, and their literary representations. Readings may include: Nietzsche “Beyond Good and Evil,” Taylor “On the Origin of Good and Evil,” Benedict “The Case for Moral Relativism,” Rachels “Why Morality is Not Relative,” Bentham “Classical Utilitarianism,” Williams “Against Utilitarianism,” Aristotle “Virtue Ethics,” MacIntyre “The Virtues,” Baier “The Need for More than Justice,” Russell “Reflections on Suffering,” etc.

A literary anthology will complement the theoretical focus. Ultimately, this course studies how ethics shapes literary forms and standards.  It is concerned with both the morality of literature and the literary nature of morality itself.  


All readings will be made available online; however, students may alternatively choose to purchase the following from the U of C Bookstore:

Pojman, Louis P. and Lewis Vaughn. The Moral Life: An Introductory Reader in Ethics and Literature. 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Gardner, Janet E. et. al. Literature: A Portable Anthology. Fourth Edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.


Essays and presentations. There will be no exams.