Learn Philosophy through literature with this online course

Online course on Philosophy through literature


Philosophical questions have proved to be an important driving force in literature, with many stories exploring themes with which philosophers also grapple: personal identity; the nature of reality and the possibility of knowledge; the nature of death and its consequences for the meaning of life; how to be a good person, and more besides.

In this online book club, the candidate will spend five weeks digesting and discussing some literary treatments of philosophical issues, working together to uncover the questions they pose for the reader, and the answers they invite us to consider. Candidates will also read authors like Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Ursula Le Guin, A L Kennedy, Penelope Lively, Jean-Paul Sartre, Shakespeare, and Oscar Wilde.

The candidate will read about four or five short stories each week, or an equivalent amount in extracts, while taking part. Each week will begin with a set of questions to guide candidate's reading and discussion, and the virtual learning environment (VLE) will guide the candidate towards other helpful resources to complement your reading.

Weekly topics:

Week 1: Death and living: stories about purpose, fear and absurdity
Week 2: Appearance and reality: ideas from Borges and Calvino
Week 3: Me, myself and I: identity and the self from doppelgängers to Daniel Dennett
Week 4: ‘More things in heaven and earth': selections from Shakespeare's plays
Week 5: Mistakes and misdeeds: stories about moral quandaries and ‘moral luck'

About the tutor:

Dr Emily Caddick Bourne is an Institute Teaching Officer in Philosophy, and is affiliated with the Faculty of Philosophy at Cambridge. She also holds a Jacobsen Research Fellowship at Birkbeck, University of London. Emily teaches in various areas within philosophy, but her main research interests are in aesthetics and the philosophy of art, philosophy of language, metaphysics, and logic. Her work focuses especially on the nature of fiction.


5 weeks

Course fee:


Important dates:

  • Start date:29 April, 2014
  • End date 27 May, 2014

In order to get enrolled, click here.

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