Individualism or Narcissism? Using Charles Taylor’s Concept of Authenticity to Frame a First-Year, Humanities Course

By Kathleen A. Kelly.

Published by The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Many U.S. universities require that first-year students take a foundation course in the humanities. This course, often taught by faculty from a variety of disciplines, is designed to introduce students to analytical reading, thinking, and writing. Since the sequence of texts that constitutes the course may be chosen more for each text’s intrinsic merit than for the texts’ relations to each other, creating a coherent design for such courses can be a challenge. One strategy calls for a lens or framing text, that is, an idea, concept, or question through which students will interrogate each text in the sequence. By using such a frame, students will have a familiar starting point as they launch into an analysis of each new text, and they will find that their experience with the framing idea will deepen with each encounter so that, incrementally, they build analytical facility and confidence. For one such framing idea, I propose the concept of authenticity as defined by the philosopher Charles Taylor in “The Ethics of Authenticity.” I first define Taylor’s concept and suggest the variety of texts that can be illuminated through it, and then illustrate with an analysis of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “My Brother.”

Keywords: University Foundation Course, Humanities Course, Charles Taylor, “The Ethics of Authenticity,” Shakespeare, “Coriolanus,” Jamaica Kincaid, “My Brother”

The International Journal of Learning in Higher Education, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp.63-70. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 295.672KB).

Prof. Kathleen A. Kelly

Professor of English, Arts and Humanities Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA, USA

Dr. Kelly is a professor of English and formerly Chair of the Arts and Humanities Division at Babson College. She received her Ph.D., from Ohio State University, and teaches and publishes in both literary studies and the theory and pedagogy of writing. She has published articles on Bakhtin’s theory of genres, the poetry of John Donne and of Andrew Marvel, and the novels of Julian Barnes. Her current literary research focuses on contemporary narrative.