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How Should a Person Be? Art and Ethics in Contemporary Novels by Women

Sheila Heti

In 2012, Sheila Heti (pictured) published How Should a Person Be?, a novel about a young writer’s path to art through intellectual, social, and erotic trial and error. Her title provides the key to our reading of four novels by brainy, sexy women writing today: Sally Rooney’s Normal People (2018); Rachel Cusk’s Second Place (2021); Elif Batuman’s Either/Or (2022); and Heti’s Pure Colour (2022). In one way or another, all four books wrestle with the choice of whether to live life ethically or aesthetically — the binary of Batuman’s title, nicked from Kierkegaard. They show characters (especially female) wanting to nurture the social good, but also craving experience, even the messy, destructive kind. At times the choice seems stark: to be a decent person or a fulfilled artist. 


Instructor Charisse Gendron Originally from New England, Charisse Gendron taught courses in literature, feminist theory, and film at Middle Tennessee State University. After moving to Minneapolis, she served as a grants officer for arts organizations. Since retiring to Maine in 2017, she has taught at OLLI and Midcoast Senior College. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Connecticut.




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Tuesday, January 16, 2024, 9:30 AM until Tuesday, February 20, 2024, 11:30 AM Eastern Time (US & Canada) (UTC-05:00)
on Zoom - Zoom link will be sent by email close to the start of the first class

Additional Info:
Event Contact(s):
Charisse Gendron
Winter 2024
Registration is required
Payment In Full In Advance Only
You must be an active CSC member to register for this course.
Cancellation Policy:
A member may cancel a course registration up to 3 days prior to the start of class and will receive a course credit that can be used for a future registration. No refunds will be given.
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