POLS 497-2 Atlas Shrugged - Spring 2008

Instructor: Mrs. Anja Hartleb-Parson

Email: ahartleb@niu.edu

Office Hours: Tue 9 – 11 am, POLS TA Office (DuSable 476)



Ayn Rand's epic novel Atlas Shrugged celebrated its 50th Anniversary this year. The novel has influenced many well-known people in business and politics, for example former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Justice Clarence Thomas. A survey by the Library of Congress in 1992 found the novel to be the second most influential book in America after the Bible. Atlas Shrugged encompasses philosophical, economic, political, and literary theory.

As a philosophical novel, the book contains a number of philosophical themes, which we will be examining throughout the course:

·         Reason vs. anti-reason

·         Happiness as a moral end itself

·         The unity of body and mind

·         Producers vs. looters/parasites

·         Trade vs. power as means of exchange

Some more general themes of the novel we will be looking at are:

·         Independence vs. dependence

·         Individualism vs. Collectivism

·         Egoism vs. Altruism

·         Socialism vs. Capitalism


Required Reading

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. Signet, 1996.


Classroom Decorum

Please turn off cell phones and other electronic devices, as they may interfere with the instructor’s good humor.


Assignments and Grades

Attendance – 10%. Since this is a half-semester course, I absolutely expect you to attend every session. I must deem absences properly documented (e.g., doctor’s note, accident report, funeral notice etc), unexcused absences will result in a grade deduction.

Participation – 50%. This is primarily a discussion-based course; regular participation is required. Prepare for class by reading the novel and writing up a short statement noting issues/questions. I will ask you to contribute those statements for discussion. I expect active and thoughtful contribution. To receive an A for participation you must contribute during every session; to receive a B you must contribute during most sessions; to receive a C you must contribute during at least half the sessions.

Final Paper – 40%; 1500 words, double-spaced. Since this is a short paper, pick an issue or question you can address adequately, thoughtfully, and in some depth. For example, you could track a character’s development, analyze and comment on a specific passage in the book, discuss one topic we have covered in class or one we have not. Inform me of your chosen subject, so that I can ensure it will work and/or give you some advice.

Writing an A paper – An A paper has a clearly formulated and coherent thesis statement or research question. It supports that thesis or answers that research question using evidence such as textual and logical analysis, citations, or secondary sources. An A paper is well organized into paragraphs, each containing evidence to support one concept that helps prove the thesis statement. An A paper includes a proper introduction stating the author’s intention in the paper, a body containing the evidence for the thesis or findings of the research question, and a conclusion. An A paper also uses correct grammar, including punctuation, spelling, subject and verb usage.




Jan 17 – Introduction to Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged

Jan 31 – Part I

Feb 7 – Part I

Feb 21 – Part II

Mar 6 – Part II

Mar 20 – Part III

Apr 3 – Part III

Apr 17 – Final Paper due during class; Wrap-up