English R1A

Reading & Composition: Eros and Its Discontents

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2012 Lee, Richard Z
MWF 2-3 225 Wheeler

Book List

Augustine: Confessions; Austen, Jane: Persuasion; Nabokov, Vladimir: The Annotated Lolita; Plato: The Symposium; Shakespeare, William: As You Like It;

Recommended: Fish, Stanley: How to Write a Sentence

Other Readings and Media

Simon Schama's Power of Art: "Bernini"; Woody Allen (dir.), Annie Hall; The Beatles, Meet the Beatles! and Rubber Soul


This class will have two aims: to develop transferrable writing skills so that students will be well equipped to approach the variety of essay forms they will encounter throughout their college careers, and to think critically about some influential discourses of love and desire as they have developed throughout the Western tradition.  We will begin with foundational accounts of the “problem” of sexual desire in Plato’s Symposium and excerpts from Augustine’s Confessions before turning to Shakespeare’s exuberant and ironic consideration of Eros in As You Like It.  We’ll continue by looking at the intersections of sexual and spiritual desire in poems by John Donne and the Bernini sculpture “The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa.”  We’ll then approach the fraught social dynamics of desire by reading Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and conclude by shifting our attention to the newer media of film and pop music, when we’ll watch Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and listen to the earlier music of the Beatles.  Time and student inclination permitting, we may also read some influential theoretical texts by Sigmund Freud and Michel Foucault.  As the semester progresses, we’ll think carefully about how these very different media go about representing and communicating the nature of desire.

Throughout, our course will develop the range and depth of your thinking about the college essay through weekly writing assignments.  We'll consider matters of sentence craft and paragraph organization alongside those of critical reflection.  Students will ultimately produce a total of thirty-two pages of writing across several shorter essays and mandatory revisions. 

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