Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center

ENGL 290 Human Values in Literature

Fall 2013

ENGL 290 Human Values in Literature
Loyola University Chicago

John Felice Rome Center / Fall 2013

Instructor: Elizabeth Geoghegan

Email: egeoghegan@luc.edu

Office Hours:  By appointment; Room TBA

Day/Time/Location:  Thursdays 930am-12pm/TBD




Literature strives to express the human condition along with its attendant concerns about race, class, sexuality, love, death, freedom and war, among other things. And yet it is often said that there are no original stories. If this is so, then how does one great work of literature inspire and inform another? What spin might the contemporary or postmodern mind put on a classic? How does reading an adaptation impact our view of the so-called original? When is a text simply derivative and when is it innovative? And what human values remain relevant in subsequent versions? This course will explore these questions by looking at several works of literature that have inspired an adaptation, homage, or —in today’s parlance — a “remix” and we will examine the way these iterations (both literary and cinematic) strive to help us better understand what it means to be human.


We will look at Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, the film it inspired Francis Ford Coppola to write and direct; we will read Thomas Mann’s classic novella Death in Venice and Beat poet Alan Ginsberg’s Indian Journals alongsideGeoff Dyer’s genre-spanning “redux” of both Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi; then we will read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway andMichael Cunningham’s critically acclaimed homage The Hours, before moving on toessayistSusan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief andSpike Jonze’spost-modern cine-response Adaptation; and lastly we will discuss the way human values are projected ontoPhillip K. Dick’s futuristic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Ridley Scott’s reinvention of it as the film Blade Runner.


OUTCOME:  Students will be able to demonstrate understanding of the ability of literature to express the deepest and most abiding concerns of human beings, and how literary works come to be. Students will better understand how one great work of literature inspires another and how the various versions build upon the same desire to find a way to express the human condition.


Knowledge Area(s) satisfied:

Literary Knowledge and Experience

Skill(s) Developed:

Critical Thinking and Reading

Communication Skills – Written & Oral

Values Requirement(s) satisfied:





To increase student(s) understanding of how literary works express human concerns, and the ways that works of literature inspire contemporary revisions and adaptations.


Enhance skills in critical thinking and oral and written expression. The student(s) will practice thinking critically about both the literature they study and the interpretations they produce by questioning the key assumptions operating in the literary texts they read and those that inform their own interpretations of those texts. The course will encourage student(s) to develop their own hypotheses, theories, and interpretations of the literature covered. Students will practice improving their descriptive, analytical, and argumentative skills in oral discussion and in formal, written critical analyses. They will improve their ability to frame questions, present background information, analyze specific images, symbols, passages, and scenes, and to present interpretations of literary work in both oral and written formats.


The course will improve student ability to understand how multiple interpretations of literary works are possible, and how differing interpretations reflect particular cultural and historical conditions that change over time. They will improve their ability to understand meaning in historical context, to explore the denotative and connotative meaning of words, and to develop a facility for using different critical approaches (such as formalist, psychological, political, biographical) to produce different analyses and interpretations of the texts.



Through in-class discussion, writing assignments, and the oral presentation, student(s) will learn to understand, paraphrase, summarize, and contextualize the meaning of assigned texts and criticism, and to develop their own ideas, hypotheses, theories, questions, and proposals about the works in question, synthesizing ideas to support their own arguments and analyses of the text(s).


LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Readings and discussions will provide information regarding the texts, placing them in an historical context and providing avenues for critical analysis.  Student(s) will be expected to read the materials in advance and be prepared to both ask and answer questions about the reading assignments.  Discussion, homework, one midterm paper, one oral presentation, and one final research paper will be used to assess literary knowledge, as well as writing and critical thinking skills.



Participation / Preparedness                                   10%

Response Papers /Homework                                  20%

Close Reading of Film                                               20%

Midterm Exam  / Paper                                             25%

Final Paper                                                               25%



NOTE:  All papers must be written in MLA format (e.g. typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, and, when applicable, with in-text citations and a list of works cited.) Check the MLA or see me if you have any questions about format. Papers will be downgraded for failure to adhere to the MLA. Guidelines for individual papers will be handed out and discussed in class.



Participation is of the utmost importance. Literary criticism and lectures will provide a foundation for the course, however student(s) will be expected to come prepared to contribute to class discussions.  Detailed guidelines will be provided for each of the requirements. If, at any time, you find you have questions about the assigned readings, the papers, or anything else, please make an appointment to see me and/or feel free to contact me either via Email: egeoghegan@luc.edu.


For papers, you are required to turn in BOTH a hard copy (MLA format, stapled) and to submit an electronic copy to my email: egeoghegan@luc.edu. Please put Hemingway Paper # 1 & the book title in the subject of the email. For the record, when printing in Italy, the Page Setup should be for “A4” paper, not American Letter or 8.5 x 11.  FOR FULL CREDIT YOU MUST SUBMIT BOTH COPIES, comply with the MLA format guidelines, and turn your assignments in on time.  Unexcused late papers will drop one letter grade if they are more than three (3) days late, and they will continue to drop one letter for each subsequent late day.  Please keep in mind that an F or 50 is still preferable to a 0 with respect to your final grade. If you need an extension on a paper, you must ask me 48 hours before the actual due date. 



Conrad, Joseph, Heart of Darkness (Penguin Classics, 2007)

Cunningham, Michael, The Hours (Picador, 2000)

Dick, Philip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Del Rey 1996)

Dyer, Geoff, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (Vintage 2010)

Mann, Thomas, Death in Venice and Other Stories (DAVID LUKE TRANSLATION only, Bantam, 1988)

Ginsberg, Alan, Indian Journals (Grove Press, 1996)

Orlean, Susan, The Orchid Thief (Ballantine, 2000)

Woolf, Virginia, Mrs. Dalloway (Oxford World Classics, 2008)



FILMS (available in IC and/or screened in class):


Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze (2002)

Apocolypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (1979)

Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott (1982)

The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldrey (2002) – not required, but available and recommended

Death in Venice, Lucchino Visconti (1971) – not required, but recommended




Since our discussions (and your participation in them) are such a large component of this course, and we have fewer meetings than most courses, your attendance is mandatory.  Two (2) unexcused absences will result in the lowering of your final grade by one complete grade.  For example, a student with an A will drop to a B, a student with an A- will drop to a B- and so on.  More than three (3) unexcused absences may result in failure for the course.  Absences (medical or otherwise) should be cleared with the JFRC Dean’s office. 


DISABILITY POLICY:  If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me within the first week of classes



ACADEMIC INTEGRITY:  Plagiarism is considered a serious offense, will be reported to the Dean of the Loyola Rome program, and could result in expulsion.  Please see me if you have questions about how to do research, document and cite sources, or with any other questions you may have about papers and assignments. 





A detailed schedule of readings, discussion topics, and assignments TBD


Week One:  Course Intro; Screening Apocalypse Now

Week Two:  Heart of Darkness

Week Three:  Death in Venice & The Indian Journals

Week Four:  Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Week Five:  Mrs. Dalloway

Week Six:  The Hours

Week Seven: Midterm Papers Due

Week Eight: Spring Break

Week Nine:  The Orchid Thief

Week Ten:  Screening Adaptation

Week Eleven: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Week Twelve: Screening Blade Runner

Week Ten: Course Wrap Up & Final Papers Due