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Course Information

Instructor Info:Aleksandar Stevic
TA Info:Joshua Keehn
Term: 2013S
Meeting Info: Monday Wednesday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 4
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Emily Dickinson Hall (EDH) 4

What constitutes a tragedy? Both “tragedy” and “tragic” have acquired a life of their own in the public discourse. Recent articles in The New York Times have employed these terms to describe untimely deaths and grisly murders, plane accidents and devastation of terrorist attacks, drug overdoses and environmental disasters. Rather than rejecting the popular references to tragedy as inaccurate (although inaccurate they may be), this course explores whether we can find our way from the popular understanding of what constitutes a tragedy back to the actual literary practice of tragedy, and to the most important attempts to theorize it, from Aristotle to the present. Is a sense of loss and devastation enough to call something tragic? Does tragedy require a protagonist capable of ethical choice? Does it require an irresolvable clash of obligations? Readings/screenings to include Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Racine, Ibsen, O’Neill, Anouilh, and films by Von Trier, Paul Haggis, and Spike Lee, among others.

Course Objectives:

Course Objectives

In this course you can expect to become familiar with many of the central texts in the history of tragedy, to gain an understanding of how the genre developed and to get some sense on how a literary form interacts with social history. This course will also serve to satisfy the distributional requirements in Writing and Research and Multiple Cultural Perspectives. You will gain insight into a variety of questions and procedures of literary criticism, from basic matters of form, coherent argumentation, and proper documentation, to broader issues of how to write about literary texts and the complex social and cultural tensions these texts embody.

Evaluation Criteria:

You are expected to attend classes regularly, read the assigned materials, and participate actively in the discussions. To help keep the conversation going, I will ask you to post your thoughts on the assigned readings online the evening before the second class of the week (that would be every Tuesday by 10 PM); these informal responses (about 300 words in length) will be available on the course website and visible to all the participants in the class (details about the website pending). Finally, you are expected to write one short (circa 5 pages) and one long paper (circa 12-15 pages) and to submit them by the assigned deadlines. The short paper is an excellent opportunity to assess your writing skills, and I expect every student to meet with my TA Josh Keehn ( and discuss the potential topics. Josh is also available to help if your paper needs revisions and with your writing in general.

Additional Info:

Policy on Absences and Late Work

Regular attendance and participation are essential. Since this is a seminar, your absence, your lack of participation, or your tardiness will affect the overall quality of the class. Please do not be late, and inform me in advance if you absolutely must miss a class. Persistent tardiness, lack of participation, as well as missing more than two sessions will jeopardize your standing in the course. I equally expect that your written work be submitted on time. I am, however, prepared to consider brief extensions of paper deadlines with advance notice. If for any reason you feel you might have trouble fulfilling the course requirements, by all means talk to me as soon as possible.   


Computer Use Policy

In principle you should not use your laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other similar devices in class. The temptation to check email or Facebook is far too great for all of us, so it’s best to remove the temptation altogether. I will, of course, make exceptions for reasons of disability, and you are free to use your computers for in-class presentations. On the other hand, I encourage you to submit all of your written work electronically, and to make maximum use of the course website when preparing for the class.   


Policy on Plagiarism

In your written work you must give proper credit for ideas and information which are not your own original contribution, no matter what the source. This includes scholarly books and articles, but also any online articles, blogs, or discussions, no matter how informal. There is no need to hide your sources: academic writing always implies a conversation (and sometimes a polemic) with existing scholarship, and I will be happy to help you in striking the appropriate balance between your original interpretation and reliance on the authority of experts. While I will work with you to help avoid inadvertent plagiarism, blatant attempts to pass someone else’s work as your own (e.g. downloading an entire paper from the Web) will be referred to the appropriate Dean who can then take proper disciplinary action, in accordance with the College policy which you can consult at I will discuss plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty in more detail in class, and I am prepared to meet with you and answer any questions and concerns you might have. You can also consult some helpful sources on plagiarism online: