Focus Designations: Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) and Oral Communication (O) 

In this class we will read a wide range fictional texts, including novels, short stories, and web-based and mobile interactive stories to explore the ethical questions they raise. Among the issues we will discuss are immigration and the global refugee crisis, the legacies of slavery and colonialism, genetic engineering and cloning, climate change, and the treatment of animals. The class will introduce you to critical concepts and methods for the study of narrative, and we will also explore different frameworks for moral reasoning, drawing on selections of texts from the philosophy of ethics. The assignments designed to build your skills in reading, critical thinking, argumentation, and professional communication.

This course has a Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) Focus designation. Contemporary ethical issues are fully integrated into the main course material and will constitute at least 30% of the content. At least 8 hours of class time will be spent discussing ethical issues. Through the use of lectures, discussions and assignments, you will develop basic competency in recognizing and analyzing ethical issues; responsibly deliberating on ethical issues; and making ethically determined judgments.

This class also has an Oral Communication (O) Focus Designation. Fifty percent (50%) of your grade will be based on your performance as a speaker and respondent in oral presentations in various formats. Prior to all of your oral communication assignments, I will provide training in effective public speaking in academic contexts, which will include advice on preparing and rehearsing for these assignments as well as pointers for creating successful visual supplements to your presentation.

Student Learning Outcomes

 Upon successful completion of this course you should be able to

  • read fictional texts critically, attending to details such as narrative structure, style, figurative language, allusions, and dominant themes
  • identify and employ basic concepts in narrative theory
  • identify and employ different frameworks for ethical deliberation
  • produce clear, coherent analyses of literary texts for oral presentation to an academic audience
  • demonstrate sound argumentation in your presentations
  • design effective visual supplements for your oral presentations
  • carry on respectful discussions with peers in formal academic contexts
  • document sources accurately and responsibly in your writing using a standard academic style

Required Texts


Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake.

Fowler, Karen Joy. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

Morrison, Toni. A Mercy.

Saunders, George. Fox 8.

Vuong, Ocean. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.

Short Stories (provided through Laulima)

Camus, Albert. “The Guest.”

Cooper, Brenda. “For the Snake of Power.”

Hguyen, Viet Thanh. “The War Years.”

Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”

Interactive Fiction (available online or as app)

The Pixel Hunt, Figs, and ARTE France. Bury Me, My Love.

Porpentine, With Those We Love Alive.

Snow, Kevin. Beneath Floes.

Philosophy of Ethics (provided through Laulima or available online)

Short selections from the work of Aristotle,  Immanuel Kant,  Jeremy Bentham, Emmanuel Levinas, Carol Gilligan, and Jonathan Haidt.


Your grade will be based on your performance in the following assignments:

One 5-Minute Lightning-Round Presentation on an Ethical Question

One Instructional PechaKucha-Style Presentation on an Assigned Text (10 slides, 20 seconds each)

One 7-Minute Conference Presentation Incorporating Ethical Reasoning

One Midterm and One Final Examination