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Hope, Suffering, and Meaning

ENG 413 (Not currently offered)

Hope, Suffering, and Meaning
(Not currently offered)

  • Course ID:ENG 413
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:English
  • Teachers:Joseph Bissex

Description and Objectives

From the poems of Ovid to the stories and books of de Troyes and Twain to the plays of Ruhl, literature has attempted to solve the problem of how to respond to suffering. This is a superhuman task undertaken by human agents, and ultimately comes down to a choice: we can turn to nihilism, to distractions, or to hope. Authors across millennia have used stories, sometimes versions of the same story, to depict the struggles inherent to this choice. What meaning do we give to our suffering? Immersing ourselves in the experiences of these stories leads us to the answers we abide by in real life.


  • Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl
  • The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene
  • No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
  • Excerpts from Ovid, Virgil, Song of Roland, Chretien de Troyes, Ivanhoe, Huckleberry Finn

Course Requirements

  • Reading of class material and one assigned non-curricular work.
  • Completion of all readings and assignments by the given due dates.
  • Active class participation and critical questioning.
  • Evidence of care in preparation for written and performance assignments
  • Above all, turn in essays early and take advantage of the rewrite option.
  • Assignments vary from quarter to quarter, but the focus will be frequent short critical essays. Students will write approximately one 2-page essay per week, with the opportunity to do one rewrite per essay to raise the grade. Each essay will be started in class for immediate feedback, and each essay will be supported by cited research done outside the classroom.

Successful Students

  • Successful students will be on time, with books and notes in hand, and be prepared to engage the material.  They will display attentiveness to detail and foster habits of creative initiative and a collaborative spirit. Above all, they will turn in writing assignments early and take advantage of the rewrite option to raise their grade. Good writing is rewriting!