Ayn Rand held that art is an indispensable need of human life, an irreplaceable form of spiritual refueling. In this course, Leonard Peikoff selects eight masterpieces of world literature — eight plays from ancient Greece to the 20th century that are both philosophically rich and esthetically exceptional — and analyzes them as great works of drama and as works that implicitly convey complete philosophies of life.
For each play, Peikoff provides historical background and context. He then demonstrates how to identify the play’s essential conflict, its plot and character development and its deeper theme. Drawing on all these aspects, he then discusses the overall philosophy conveyed by the play (if not explicitly, then at least implicitly). The result is a unique exercise in philosophical detection and esthetic evaluation.
After completing this course, you will understand better how to reach a full, objective evaluation of an artwork, taking into account philosophical, esthetic and personal (optional) factors — and therefore how to grasp, evaluate and enjoy the objective values a great play offers.
Spoiler alert: Each lecture assumes that students have read the play that will be discussed in that lecture. Recommended editions are provided below.
Disclaimer: The course consists of audio recordings of lectures originally presented to an audience of Ayn Rand fans. (The first eight lectures were given at the Jefferson School, in San Francisco, CA, in 1993; the ninth lecture, on Cyrano de Bergerac, was given at Second Renaissance Conference in Secaucus, NJ, in 1994.)
An Enemy of the People
Cyrano de Bergerac