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Grant number like: AQ-50099-10

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Northwestern University (Evanston, IL 60208-0001)
Mark Vinzenz Alznauer (Project Director: November 2008 to June 2011)

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants
Education Programs

$24,749 (approved)
$24,749 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2009 – 12/31/2010

Should Art Be Moral? The Ancient Quarrel Between Philosophy and Poetry

The development of a one-semester course that would be offered at least twice, for twenty undergraduates, on the question of the moral value of art.

In this seminar-style course, we will look at some of the most prominent episodes of what Plato called "the ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry" in order to compass the alternative answers given to the perennial question: should art be moral? In pursuing this question, we will examine both the works of art that have figured most prominently in this debate as well as the philosophic and literary disputes that have followed in their wake. The course is comprised of three units. The first concerns the pre-modern background of the quarrel and will include readings from Sophocles, Plato, and Dante, among others. The second unit deals with the reemergence of this debate in modern writers such as Moliere, Rousseau, Schiller and Nietzsche. In the last unit, we turn to five late modern poets and writers who have explicitly treated the relation of morality to their art: Tolstoy, Brecht, Eliot, Woolf and O'Connor.