ENGL 2050 Literature and Propaganda

Throughout its history, literature has served to move, persuade, offend, challenge and change us.  Though we are apt to think of literature as an art to be enjoyed for its own sake, in fact it has often been made to perform a variety of social functions, including the promulgation of partisan beliefs. In this course, we will explore the relation of literary art to propaganda through the study of selected writings in different genres, from Shakespeare’s Henry V to Orwell’s 1984. We will examine how literary works articulate prevailing ideological habits of thought, how attitudes about literature’s social purpose have changed over time, and how literary effects have been used to render more effective the dissemination of political, religious and obscene material. Among the terms and concepts we will consider are didacticism, rhetoric, ideology, pornography and censorship.