Philosophy and Literature: The Problem of Consent

Philosophy and Literature: The Problem of Consent

Professor Elaine Scarry
Spring 2014 course
M, W 3:10pm - 4:10pm
3 classroom credits

The course opens with philosophic texts on consent (four dialogues by Plato, Locke’s Second Treatise, Rousseau’s Social Contract), then continues to revisit the philosophic concept of consent by looking at a sequence of practical contexts: Part I-the relation of consent and the body in marriage, in medicine, and in state citizenship; Part II – the act of consent and dissent in war (beginning with the dissent of Achilles in the Iliad and including readings up to the present); Part III – freedom of movement, freedom of entry and exit in citizenship (including contexts where right of movement has been denied); Part IV – consent as the basis of cultural creation. The nature of individual and collective deliberation is at the center of the course throughout.

Readings include: case law (Plessy v. Ferguson, Pratt v. Davis, Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospital), constitutional writings (Federalist Papers 4, 7, 8, 23, 25, 27-29, 41; Madison’s Record of Federal Assembly; Ratification Debates ), plays (Euripides’ Hecabe, Sophocles’ Philoctetes, five U.S. suffrage plays), films, novels, and historical narratives (e.g. Thucydides selections, Underground Railroad narratives).


This course will be jointly-listed with FAS as English 190x.

This course will meet at FAS. There will also be a required discussion section every week; days and times are TBD.

The course iSites page is available at the following link.