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ENG 451

Seminar in Literature

Concentrated study of a topic in literary studies. Prerequisite: two 300- or 400-level courses in literature. Required of majors in English with emphasis on literature. May be repeated once for credit.

Distribution Area Prerequisites Credits
Two 300- or 400-level courses in literature. Required of majors in English with emphasis on literature. 1 course

Spring Semester information

Amity Reading

451A: Sem: Visions of the Other World

This course is designed to provide a capstone to your English Literature major at DePauw. We will be synthesizing everything you have learned in previous classes as we simultaneously move ahead with a literary topic of our own: visions of the Otherworld. We will be reading a constellation of interconnected texts that describe the afterlife: heaven, hell, and the spaces in between. We will begin with the Visio Sancti Pauli, a third century New Testament apocryphon that supposedly records the Apostle Paul's journey to the afterlife to witness the fates of both damned and saved souls. But as we journey to hell and back, we will also be considering the nature of textual transmission, authorship, and translation. We will look at various differing versions of the Visio, many of which have survived, and we will consider the nature of its authorship. Who wrote this text and when? How might that affect our understanding of the text's themes and details? We will also examine some of the many texts the Visio has influenced in the centuries since it was first composed, the most famous being the Inferno of Dante. We will consider the value, ethics, and techniques of comparative literary analysis as we examine texts in translation and attempt to understand their realms of influence. Toward the end of the semester, we will branch out and consider modern engagements with the afterlife, the journey motif, and the complexities of textual transmission.

Our central project will be a long (25 page) seminar paper. But this course also fulfills the S competency requirement, and we will therefore be focusing much of our energy on discussion, verbal communication, and listening skills.