Phil 3195: “The Storytelling Animal”

Course Description:

This course offers an in-depth analysis of the relationship between fictional storytelling and human nature. Questions to be considered include: What value is there to reading or watching fictional stories? Is there a difference in value between fictional stories and non-fictional ones? Is there value in seeking out tragedies and horror stories–those that shock us, terrify us, make us feel bad? Can we grow morally by reading good literature, and can we be harmed by reading bad literature? Is the operation of the imagination, itself, something valuable to creatures like us? Why do we tell stories? Are we, in fact, anything but the stories we tell?

Required Materials:

Narrative, Emotion, and Insight, ed. Noel Carroll and John Gibson, GPPC Press

…and articles, to be made available on Moodle

Student Learning Outcomes:

It is expected and desired that students will leave this course with a wide body of knowledge related to the philosophy of art. The course is designed to encourage students to develop their skills associated with philosophic argumentation. These include, by are not limited to, the skills of identifying and understanding arguments within texts, constructing and developing arguments in standard form, evaluating arguments for their worth, and writing argumentative essays.

Grade Elements:

Throughout this course, there will be 20 assignments total: 18 exercises, a draft of the final paper, and the final paper.

The exercises go up in value throughout the term. The first is worth 5 points, the last several are worth 25 points. Please see the section of Moodle entitled “Exercises” for the instructions, point values, and due dates for each individual exercise. Each exercise has different instructions, so it is vital that you check this section of Moodle regularly. I will also regularly provide more information about completing the assignments during class before it is due. The sum of all the exercises is 300 points (60% of the final grade).

All exercises are due at 9:30am on the date listed.

The final paper is worth 175 points (35% of the final grade). It will be due during the officially scheduled final exam block for this course. More information will be provided later.

The draft of the final paper is worth 25 points (5% of the final grade). More information will be provided later.

The last element that will determine your grade is attendance and participation. Good-faith attendance is mandatory. Over the course of the term, you may miss two days of class without attendance affecting your grade. Any absences beyond those two will require you to complete a make-up assignment regarding the material you have missed. Failing to complete a make-up assignment will result in 15 points being removed from your final score. Make-up assignments are designed on a case-by-case basis. It is your responsibility to keep track of your attendance and to contact me if you need a make-up assignment.


The exercises are intended to grow more difficult throughout the term, though their growing difficulty is meant to match your growing skills. Each exercise requires close and careful attention to the texts, as you will be expected to locate portions of arguments within the text and then analyze them. You will be graded on your ability to do this, as required by the exercise’s instructions.

I will only provide limited commentary on any individual exercise, though students are encouraged to see me during my office hours for any clarification. I will also allow for you to argue for a reconsideration of the grade given on any particular exercise: if you believe that your answer to a particular exercise deserves a higher grade than I have given, you may request reconsideration in the form of a written essay.  This written essay must be clear and detailed, providing a convincing argument in favor of a higher grade. However, no reconsideration plea will be considered unless you have spoken to me about your assignment during my office hours beforehand.

The final paper is your opportunity to analyze and critique the material covered in class. You will be graded on 1) your ability to express the theories and arguments under consideration and 2) your ability to construct and support an argument for a thesis. It is expected that you can write in a well-structured and grammatically-correct style.  More information will be provided later. Grades given on the final paper are final.

There will be no options for extra credit.

 Class Conduct and Attendance:

You are expected to attend class every day, to arrive promptly, and to stay for the entirety of the class. Arriving late or leaving early is disruptive and rude. If you have an actual need to do either, let me know before class starts. Laptops and tablets are not permitted in class. Make sure you print out and bring to class all of the readings that are not in the book. Students are not permitted to record lectures without my explicit approval beforehand.

This is a class in which your ability to succeed is directly related to your level of participation. You are expected to complete the assigned readings before class and to participate in discussion while in class.

Students are expected to attend all scheduled class meetings.  It is the responsibility of students to plan their schedules to avoid excessive conflict with course requirements. However, there are legitimate and verifiable circumstances that lead to excused student absence from the classroom.  These are subpoenas, jury duty, military duty, religious observances, illness, bereavement for immediate family, and NCAA varsity intercollegiate athletics.  For complete information, please see:

Student Conduct Code: Appropriate classroom conduct promotes an environment of academic achievement and integrity.  Disruptive classroom behavior that substantially or repeatedly interrupts either the instructor’s ability to teach, or student learning, is prohibited. Student are expected adhere to Board of Regents Policy: Student Conduct Code:

Teaching & Learning: Instructor and Student Responsibilities: UMD is committed to providing a positive, safe, and inclusive place for all who study and work here.  Instructors and students have mutual responsibility to insure that the environment in all of these settings supports teaching and learning, is respectful of the rights and freedoms of all members, and promotes a civil and open exchange of ideas. To reference the full policy please see:

Electronic Communication:

I encourage students to contact me! You are more than welcome to e-mail me with any

questions, problems, or comments related to the course or philosophy in general. Usually, I am quick to reply, but please allow me 48 hours to respond. If I do not respond within 48 hours, assume I did not receive your e-mail. Just send it again. When you e-mail me, please include your full name, the name of the course, and its meeting time.

Late Policy:

All work must be turned in by the due dates listed in Moodle. Late work will be accepted, but a late penalty will apply.  If you turn an assignment in late on the due date, your score will be lowered by 5%.  If you turn an assignment in late the day after the due date, your score will be lowered by 10%. Each additional day lowers your grade by another 10%, up to 50%. Under unusual circumstances, students may be permitted to redo an assignment or complete an alternative. What constitutes “unusual” circumstances is left to my discretion. If you believe your circumstances may be unusual, see me during my office hours.

Students with Disabilities:

            It is the policy and practice of the University of Minnesota Duluth to create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities. If there are aspects of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or your ability to meet course requirements—such as time limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos—please notify me as soon as possible. You are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Resources to discuss and arrange reasonable accommodations. Please call 218-726-6130 or visit the DR website at for more information.


Academic Dishonesty:

Academic dishonesty tarnishes UMD’s reputation and discredits the accomplishments of students.  Academic dishonesty is regarded as a serious offense by all members of the academic community.  UMD’s Student Academic Integrity Policy can be found at:





Reading List

All readings are available either on Moodle or in Narrative, Emotion, and Insight.

Walton, “Fearing Fictions”

Gendler and Kovakovich, “Genuine Rational Fictional Emotions”

Tullman and Buckwalter, “Does the Paradox of Fiction Exist?”

Carroll, “The Nature of Horror”

Mag Uidhir, “An Eliminativist Theory of Suspense”

Smuts, “Rubber Ring: Why Do We Listen to Sad Songs?”

Feagin, “Discovery Plots in Tragedy”

Gaut, “Telling Stories: Narration, Emotion, and Insight in Memento”

Dadlez, “Truly Funny: Humor, Irony, and Satire as Moral Criticism”

Carroll, “Philosophical Insight, Emotion, and Popular Fiction: The Case of Sunset Boulevard”

Mullin, “Narrative, Emotions, and Autonomy”

Gibson, “Thick Narratives”

Nussbaum, “Finely Aware and Richly Responsible: Moral Attention and the Moral Task of Literature”

Eaton, “Integrating the Aesthetic and the Moral”

Goldie, “Life, Fiction, and Narrative”

Vice, “Literature and the Narrative Self”

Rudder Baker, “Making Sense of Ourselves: Self-Narratives and Personal Identity”