English 233: Introduction to Western Humanities  Baroque and Enlightenment

Extra-credit Option

on the film A Man for All Seasons

Sir Thomas More (1477-1535) has been described (by G.K. Chesterton) as the single person who "may come to be counted the greatest Englishman, or at least the greatest historical character in English History."  Here's a chance to get acquainted with this remarkable figure, and to explore some of the issues he confronted in the context of the Protestant Reformation as it developed in England.

This is a story about AUTHORITY (of the pope, of kings, of the Bible, of the law of the realm, of codified and uncodified morality), and thus a story about DUTY (duty to God, duty of subject to king, obligation of king to subject, obligation between friends, obligation incurred by promises). As you will see, it also turns out to be about the relations between REASON AND FAITH: how reason can clarify the content of faith, how reason might enable one to discriminate in particular cases between trust and credulity, to what degree reason can provide grounds for faith, how reason can be employed to devise plausible ways to cloak interest in the garb of faith. As this list of issues suggests, what reason ends up achieving is a function not merely of degree of intelligence and knowledge, but of the state of the will: whether it chooses to subordinate itself to reason or appetite. Hence, this is a story (as, in a very different way, Tartuffe is as well!) about the differences between COURAGE AND OBSTINACY  just as it is a story about the difference between JUSTIFIED FLEXIBILITY AND OPPORTUNISTIC TRIMMING.

To prepare for this assignment, you should

The choice of topics. After viewing the films and carefully reflecting on it in the light of the materials from WH and our other readings, write a short essay on one of the following. (Shoot for something around a page long, single-spaced with standard margins and 12-point type or 10 c.p.i.)

Review the general instructions on Extra-Credit Assignments.

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Lyman Allen Baker

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Revised 17 September 1996

URL: http://www.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/ec-mfas.htm