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Online Learning

Course Number: PHE 505
Course Title: Narrative and the Moral Life
Term: Fall 2014

Professor

Dr. Randall Colton, colton@kenrick.edu

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.

3. COURSE SCHEDULE

Note: Readings and assignments are tentative; check course site for up to date information.

Week 1: The Story of Our Lives: Narrative and the Intelligibility of Human Action

Readings

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

Readings

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

Readings

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: Is Art in the Moral Realm?

Readings

Noel Carroll, “Art and the Moral Realm” and “Art and Ethicial Crticism: An Overview of Recent Directions of Research,” Art in Three Dimensions (NY: Oxford University Press, 2010), 175-200 and 234-271.

Assignment

Listen to audio presentationListen to audio presentation

Week 8:  Humor and Moral Vision

Readings

John Lippitt, “Is a Sense of Humor a Virtue,” The Monist 88.1 (2005), 72-92.

Assignment

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.

Assignment

Watch video presentation

Week 11: The Varieties of Friendship

Readings

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

Readings

Kreeft, from Back to Virtue

Assignment

Watch or listen to presentations

Week 14: How to Be a Friend to Your Books: Virtues of a Good Reader

Readings

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (NY: Cambridge University Press, 1961), 1-26, 74-94, 124-141.

Assignment

Watch video presentation

Week 15: Inhabiting the Christian Story

Readings

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.

Project

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), ISBN-10: 0520062108 ISBN-13: 978-0520062108 List price $26.99
  • Colton, Randall G. Repetition and the Fullness of Time: Gift, Task, and Narrative in Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Ethics (Mercier University Press), ISBN 9780881464627 List price $30
  • Course Packet

PROFESSOR’S NOTE from the publisher

"I’d be happy to offer your students a 20% discount with free USPS shipping on any order they place with us. This might help them with costs for required texts for your class.

They can order directly from our website with the code MUPNEWS. This discount will apply to their entire order

Here is your book link.

Or they may call our office directly and place their order over the phone  866-895-1472 toll free."

6. SUGGESTED READINGS and RESOURCES:

  • See the course bibliography on the Info page of our website.

7. EVALUATION

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).

GRADING SCALE:

A 94-100; A- 90-93; B+ 87-89; B 84-86; B- 80-83; C+ 77-79; C 74-76; C- 70-73 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. DISABILITIES ACCOMMODATIONS POLICY

Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at rmish@holyapostles.edu or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.

9. ACADEMIC HONESTY POLICY

Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

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.

10. 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, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 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.

11. 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.

12. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR

 Colton, DrI'm originally from Texas and came to St. Louis University for my PhD in philosophy. More importantly than gaining my degree, I also picked up a wife in St. Louis. My wife and I have since lived in Chicago and Philadelphia, coming back several years ago for a position in philosophy at Cardinal Glennon College of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. We now live near St. Louis with our eight children—the older five of whom we homeschool—and we worship at the Oratory of Ss. Gregory and Augustine.  My book Repetition and the Fullness of Time: Gift, Task, and Narrative in Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Ethics was published by Mercer University Press in 2013.

(860) 632-3010