T C E603B • Composition and Reading in World Literature
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
Inventions of Love "Invention," for our purposes (and after this point I shall drop the quotation marks) is what I do whenever I say anything about anything--with an adjective, or metaphor, or statement. I say what something is like, and that involves making a choice, possibly an interesting or revealing choice. "Love" (in our language and culture) is so amorphous and ambiguous (and even trite) as to be almost meaningless until it is reinvented in one context or another. In some contexts, love is invented as hopeless yearning, distance, forlornness, brevity, jealousy, even betrayal. In others it is invented as companionship, trust, easygoing familiarity. It may be expressed as possessing another or being possessed, thralldom--or it may be liberation, release. It may be describable as the touch of flesh to flesh, or it may on the contrary be a rarified matter of spirit. Is it an enabler, or a disabler? Accidental, or deliberate? Sensible, or mad? Moral, or amoral? Stable and faithful, or impetuous and wild? Is it at basis compassionate, or narcissistic? Is it hierarchical, involving dominance and submission, or does it express equality? Are we to think of it as open plainness, or as magic? Is it a mansion? A wind? A ghost? A tyrant? A death? A shared joke? A rite or sacrament? A form of play? A knowledge? A blindness? Latin (and Greek) once afforded some defined options: Agape, amicitia, amor, cathexis, caritas, consensus, cupiditas, desiderium, eros, fervor, libido, misericordia, mollitia, motus, etc. etc. But our trite, overused love just leaves us at sea, and we have to get our bearings by fresh metaphor and by dramatic negotiation. In the spring semester we will explore chiefly English inventions of love; and here for instance is a partial historical sequence: George Herbert and John Donne in the early 1600's "make" love with a witty, role-playing counterpart lover, either Divine or human. In the later 1600's John Milton's Paradise Lost displays an array of loves, but the most memorable is Satan's, for whom love is an outgrowth of intelligent narcissism and melancholia. In the 1700's we encounter inventions of love that are less psychologically exploratory and more titillating and tactical--for instance in plays by Goldsmith or Sheridan. The nineteenth century discovers "settings" for love: exotic settings, wild or remote or nighttime settings, "gothic' settings, and love is again psychologized--a displacement-into-the-dark. Finally, in the twentieth century, Eliot, Joyce, Woolf and Lively invent love as a "saving" possibility, and one most often just out-of-reach. (Don't you ever indulge in such shamelessly glib generalities as I have just given you! And treat everything I say with the gravest skepticism!)
About the Professor Be warned: I am a grandfather (more accurately, a grandmother's helper), an outdoor-sort-of-person (sculling, canoeing, walking), and for my first twenty-eight years a dour Yankee. I have studied at Amherst, Yale, and King's College London. I have taught at CUNY, UConn, Yale, UNH, University College Galway, and, for most of my time, at UT. My special loves are Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims, and Shakespeare's characters, perhaps because they know that they are inventing themselves, and do it so experimentally and competitively. I know something about devotional practices in the 14th-17th centuries.
You will write about eight short (2-3 pages.) papers in the first semester, seven of them revisable, and your course grade will be no lower than the average of those papers.
Our central texts are The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, and The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Major Authors. We will supplement these with a play by Goldsmith or Sheridan, and with three novels: Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights; Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger; Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.