Adam & Eve (Gen Ed 1075)



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Joseph Koerner and Stephen Greenblatt

For most of history, humans expressed ethical ideas in the form of stories, and of all these the story of Adam and Eve has been perhaps the most powerful and enduring.  For almost three thousand years, in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim worlds, people practiced ethical reasoning through the seedpod of this—even to early audiences—unreasonable tale: the first man, formed by God at the culmination of the world’s creation and followed soon by the first woman, disobeys his creator by eating a forbidden fruit, is punished by sickness, hardship, and death, and passes his curse to the entire future human species.  The course studies the Adam and Eve story as told in Genesis, as reshaped by rabbis, monks, mystics, and heretics, and as retold and reimagined by poets and artists, especially during the Renaissance.  Consideration will be given to the differing constraints and possibilities of the verbal and visual arts. Texts center on Genesis and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, but include works by Immanuel Kant, Mary Shelley, Søren Kierkegaard, Franz Kafka, and Mark Twain.  Artists include Van Eyck, Masaccio, Bosch, Dürer, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt.  In addition to demonstrating historical grasp and analytical understanding, students will be challenged to exercise their ethical reasoning on the ethical issues articulated in the story and its receptions.