In my post yesterday, I had written of how discussion centering on a classic philosophical debate could be sparked by a reading of fiction. (The upper-tier core class I’m teaching, Philosophical Issues in Literature, is of course, all about that!) But fiction features in another reading list of mine–via Walter Kaufman‘s eclectic anthology, Religion from Tolstoy to Camus–which I am using in this semester’s philosophy of religion class. We talked about The Death of Ivan Ilyich yesterday in class and it induced a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion covering religious feeling, existential crises, metaphysical rebellion, philosophy’s relationship to death, Tolstoy’s critique of organized religion and so on. I have too, in the past, used fiction in my philosophy of feminism class (Ursula Le Guin‘s The Left Hand of Darkness). I wrote about that experience over on my personal blog; it was a wholly positive one.
I would be interested in hearing from other folks on their use of fiction in their class reading lists. Where and how did you do so? What was your experience like? Links to sample syllabi would be awesome.
My post triggered a series of very interesting responses, which should be of value to academic philosophers and to anyone interested in the relationship between philosophy and literature. Please do check out the comments thread; you will find many recommendations for reading, pointers to how they may be used in the classroom, as well as an indication of their philosophical significance.