English 84

Sophomore Seminar: Human Relationships in Literature, Art, and Culture

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2009 Buckwald, Craig
W 4-5 202 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Berger, J.:  Ways of Seeing; Freud, S.:  Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis; a course reader.


What do literature, art, and other cultural productions have to say about personal and social relationships - arrangements that are often central to our debates, with ourselves and others, about who we are and what we should do?

This course will allow students to begin answering this question with respect to a diverse group of influential and provocative "texts" from the ancient world to the present. Specifically, we will ask: What is really going on in a given relationship? What is the relationship's place in the big scheme of things? And what cultural ideas and values underlie, or are challenged by, the way the text presents the relationship?

Emphasizing "close reading" and "close discussion" rather than a lot of reading, this course is meant equally for those with a particular interest in the above-mentioned subject, and for those simply wishing to gain more experience analyzing how a poem, painting, popular film, or other creative or non-creative piece "works."

Our reading/viewing/listening list will be subject to some modification depending on the interests of seminar members. But it will include two short books - John Berger's Ways of Seeing and Freud's Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis - plus a course reader with manageable excerpts or pieces from Homer, Marie de France, Chaucer, Milton, Keats, Marx, Christina Rossetti, and perhaps a few others. To end the semester, we will all watch a Hollywood film, listen to some contemporary music, or experience some other high-profile production of popular culture.

Requirements: Regular attendance and participation, a paragraph offering observations and/or engaged questions brought to each meeting, and shared responsibility with a few others to lead a portion of one class.

This course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required to complete the English major.

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