• Special Topics – On Lies, Lying, and Liars: A Reading-and Writing-Intensive Investigation

    189 | 001 | CCN: 24323

    Instructor: Linda Kinstler & Ismail Muhammed

    Location: Mulford 230

    4 Units

    Wed, 3pm-6pm

    Location: Mulford 230

    Lies and lying have recently been the subject of much intellectual debate, social and political anxiety, and ethical and psychological consternation. Yet contemporary discourses on lying often forgets that lies—like truth—have a history, and a long one at that. The history of lying is at the very center of the rhetorical, political, philosophical, and literary tradition. Lying and its many variants–deception, diplomacy, politesse–have long shaped our understanding of self, society, and identity. 

    This course will examine the uneasy relation between lying and identity from Plato, Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Rousseau, and Proust to Derrida and beyond. In-depth readings from canonical philosophical, literary, political and historical works will be interwoven with case-studies on particular (and often peculiar) liars—be they con artists, financiers, artists, or writers. While most writings on lies and lying tend to take seriously only the moral dimensions of falsity—“Is it good or bad to lie?” “Under what conditions is a lie morally permissible?”—we will attempt to understand what is at stake for individuals when and if they choose mendacity. 

    This course is not only a reading-intensive course. It is also writing-intensive, designed to teach students how to write clear, critical, and persuasive prose across a broad range of genres. While we will concentrate on the art of writing an essay, we will also experiment with other modes of writing, such as the book review, the memoir, the op-ed, the blog post, and the email. Each week, we will study readings on the essential elements of composition, analyzing the art of the sentence and the paragraph.  


    *** This class will count for the “Narrative and Image” Concentration.  

    *** Students who enrolled in Rhetoric 189 during Spring 2019 are not allowed to register for this course.

    *** This course is cross-listed with English 165-003