The Seven Deadly Sins/Passions Portrayed in Literature
Dr. Elisabeth Bayley (Department of English)
Course to be taught: TBD
For centuries, theologians within the Catholic tradition have engaged the concept of the seven deadly sins/passions in order to understand human nature in greater depth and further, look at how the study and acknowledgement of these certain sins/passions might assist in guiding one into a more spiritual or psychologically healthier perception of the self and the world. Even though now, there might be more of a limitation or hesitation in looking at the concept of the seven deadly sins/passions, the possibility of using them in order to engage how we perceive humanity and evil/bad/violence/justice in the world continues to exist. Thus, this course is designed to look at the seven deadly sins/passions that have been identified historically in the Catholic tradition, through the stories that are found in literature. In particular, the class will begin by looking at a brief introduction to the seven deadly sins, which were originally created by Gregory the Great, the concept of sin, free will or the potential for choice, and the potential for vulnerability due to these sins/passions. Then the course will go into an in-depth examination of each sin, with historical and contemporary theological readings, which will not only serve to attempt to identify what each sin/passion is but also how one might look at the sin/passion from a theologically healing or alternative perspective, and we will also look at the sin from the story within a novel or a short story (or two). From each story there will be a further look at how each sin/passion is acted out, what the repercussions of each sin/passion might be and what social constructs may have inhibited or encouraged certain behaviors. Through this engagement, there will be an encouraged discourse regarding our own responsibilities toward our sins/passions, and likewise, how these sins/affect social justice issues such as gender, sexuality, race, disability, and poverty, which in itself, is a Jesuit exploration. In the end, this course aims to provide a framework from which students will be able to combine interpretations of theological and literary texts, with current social and psychological challenges regarding evil, choices and justice, and from there, continue to work toward greater peace, healing, and have more open/educated discussions regarding issues of social justice and action.