ENGLISH 290 - Themes in Language and Literature
Winter 2023, Section 003 - Scapegoats, Mobs, and the Sacred in Literature and Myth
Instruction Mode: Section 003 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 1/4/23 - 4/18/23 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


Everything old is new again. Yesterday’s witch hunters have become today’s online mobs, McCarthyism is now called “cancel culture,” and no one wants to see a finger pointed at them. Studies show that even at universities –  traditional bastions of free thought and speech – a majority of undergraduates self-censor to avoid causing offense (and professors do the same). At the center of this sordid state of affairs — which is, remember, not a new problem but rather old in human history – is the search for someone to blame: a scapegoat. And that means what we are now facing is not so much a social or political problem as it is a religious problem. This class takes a deep dive into the seminal work of theorist René Girard (1923-2015) whose “mimetic theory” explains so much about human nature, the origins of culture, the functions of religion, and our own present state of affairs. This exploration of Girard’s theory – which has exercised an enormous influence on thinkers from writer J.M. Coetzee to entrepreneur Peter Thiel – will focus on application, as his work will be used to interpret myths, religious rituals, sacred scripture, Greek tragedy, Shakespearean comedy, modern novels…as well as Twitter wars, business plans, eating disorders, and online dating. Of particular interest will be the mobs and scapegoats that now populate our world. 

Course Requirements:

Students will write short papers, participate in discussion, and complete a semester-long project. No previous preparation in philosophy, religion, or literature is required. What is required is curiosity, an open mind, and a can-do attitude at 8:30 AM. 


ENGLISH 290 - Themes in Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
002 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
1/4/23 - 4/18/23
003 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
1/4/23 - 4/18/23
004 (LEC)
 In Person
1/4/23 - 4/18/23

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