HC421H - Inside-Out Prison Exchange: Ethics and Literature

Professor: Steven Shankman

4.00 credits

CRN 35745: Tuesdays, 4:00-10:00pm @ CHA 101/OSP

This course is open only to CHC students. An an application and instructor approval are required to register for this course. If you are not familiar with the Inside-Out Program, please check out the information on the Honors College website here:  http://honors.uoregon.edu/story/inside-out-prison-exchange-program and watch the Inside-Out documentary here: https://uoprisoned.org/inside-out. Students may only take one Inside-Out class in a given term. However, given the limited spaces available, students are encouraged to apply to multiple sections if their schedule allows.

An Information Session will be held on Monday, February 13th from 4:30-5:30 pm, in the CHC’s Shephard Library, located on the third floor of Chapman Hall.

*Seats may still be available in this class. Please inquire with Professor Shankman (shankman@uoregon.edu) as to whether it is still possible to submit an application.

This class will be held on Tuesday evenings at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem; transportation will be provided.  We will leave campus between 3:30 to 4:00 p.m. and return by 10:30 p.m., with class being held from 6:00-8:30 p.m.  

We will read Vasily Grossman’s Stalingrad, the recently (2019) translated “prequel” to Life and Fate, and Is it Righteous to Be?, a series of interviews with the 20th-century’s greatest philosopher of ethics, Emmanuel Levinas (1905-1995). Life and Fate, a panoramic novel modeled on Tolstoy’s War and Peace, was a work of literature that Levinas often referred to in his writings of the last fifteen years of his life. “The essential thing in this book is simply what the character Ikonnikov says – ‘There is neither God nor the Good, but there is goodness’ – which is also my thesis.” Grossman (1905-1964), like Levinas, is careful to distinguish ethics from politics and he, like Levinas, insists that, even in the wake of the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism, goodness is still possible. We will discuss Grossman’s novel in the context of Vladimir Putin’s current and brutal invasion of Ukraine, and we will note the moral and tactical significance of the fact that, in Grossman’s Stalingrad, Russia (or, more precisely, the Soviet Union) is being invaded by Nazi Germany, in contrast to the current war, in which Russia is the invader. The class will meet on Tuesday evenings from 6-8:30 at the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSCI) in Salem. Transportation will be provided. Outside students will be meeting separately in weeks 1 and 11. If students make it a habit of reading twenty or twenty-five pages per day, they will be able to keep up with the reading. 

Please note that the Inside-Out format of this class is dependent on the prisons allowing the course to take place.