English R1A

Reading & Composition: The Social Practice of Love

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
6 Spring 2012 Weiner, Joshua J
MWF 3-4 222 Wheeler

Book List

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice; Constant, Benjamin: Adolphe; Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: Elective Affinities; Laclos, Pierre Choderlos de: Les Liaisons dangereuses; Plato: Symposium; Sidney, Sir Philip: Astrophil and Stella


De La Rochefoucauld famously wrote that “plenty of people would never fall in love if they had not heard other people talk about it.” Where do we find this “talk about love” that has such suggestive power?  This course will explore some key texts in the long tradition of European love literature that illuminate love as a social practice, which forms certain kinds of subjects. How, through the arts, is love taught and learned as a practice? How do (our) ways of loving, and different amorous subjects, have identifiable histories? How do these social practices of love interface with political bonds, with violence, and with the erotic body? Beginning with canonical texts from the ancient world (Plato) and the Renaissance (Sidney), we will quickly move on to the golden age of love literature that occurred between the late 17th century and Romanticism, exploring central works from France, Britain, and Germany – a trajectory which culminates in de Sade. We will consider contemporary articulations of problems around love as a social practice – for example, queer love, the status of the couple, and polyamory – through short theoretical readings drawn from Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, James Turner, Martha Nussbaum, and Leo Bersani, as well as the films Contempt (Godard), and Shortbus (Mitchell).

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