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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Love in an Age of Cynicism

ENGL 102.404
also offered as: COML 245
TR 12:00-1:30

English 102.404.  What we talk about when we talk about love: Love in an age of

cynicism (Jean-Michel Rabaté) TR 12-1:30.

Max # 75

Cross-listed with COML 245


What do we talk about when we talk about love? Is love just empty talk, or the stuff of dreams offered by novels, poems and plays? Can literature and film, if they contribute to the emotional swindle of popular romance, address our anxieties about the truth of love? Raymond Carver’s title evokes disabused times, when it seems that love has lost its aura; love would be debased, reduced to weak sublimation or to mindless satisfaction. The Freudian thesis is that we only love our parents under different disguises and use a noble word because we have to sublimate out murderous impulses. There is a long genealogy for cynical discourses about love. This class will explore the theme of love when it ceases to be taken for granted and must be understood in a critical perspective. We will tackle the concept first with the help of philosophers, Plato’s Symposium, Freud on the psychology of love, and Sloterdijk on cynicism. Then we will discuss relevant texts and films: Aristophanes’ plays Lysistrata and Women in Parliament, Edith Wharton’s critique of marriage in Custom of the Country, Carver’s collected stories, Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying and the political and erotic extravaganza of Jean Genet’s Funeral Rites. We will screen and discuss films like Blue Valentine, Shortcuts, The Age of Innocence, L’Atalante, Journey to Italy, and Jules and Jim.




Plato The Symposium.

Freud The Psychology of Love (Penguin, 2006).

Selections from Peter Sloterdijk’s Critique of Cynical Reason (online)

Aristophanes Lysistrata and Assembly of Women (online)

Raymond Carver, Collected Stories (Library of America)

Erica Jong, Fear of Flying.

 Jean Genet, Funeral Rites.

Requirements: six film journals (2 pages each) and two papers (8 pages each).   


1/14 Sloterdijk on cynicism and the question of love

1/19 Diogenes, Cynicism, and the question of love

1/21 Plato, The Symposium (1)

1/26 Plato, The Symposium (2)

 1/28 Freud’s Psychology of Love (Dora)

 2/2 Freud’s Psychology of Love (Three Essays)

 2/4 Freud’s Psychology of Love (Sexual Theories and Contributions)

 2/9 Freud’s Psychology of Love (A Child Is Being Beaten, Feminine Sexuality)

 2/11 Film 1:  Blue Valentine. Film Journal 1.

2/16 Raymond Carver, Stories – What We Talk about…

2/18 Raymond Carver, Stories – What We Talk about…

 2/23 Raymond Carver, Stories --  Fires.

 2/25 Raymond Carver, Stories  -- Cathedral

3/1 Film 2. Short Cuts, Robert Altman (1993). Film journal 2.

 3/3 Raymond Carver, Stories –Where I’m Calling from


Spring Break


3/15 Aristophanes Lysistrata.

 3/17 Aristophanes Women in Parliament First paper due (on Raymond Carver).

 3/22 Aristophanes Women in Parliament

 3/24 Film 3: The Age of Innocence, Martin Scorsese (1993). Film journal 3.

 3/29 Edith Wharton Custom of the Country (1)

 3/31 Edith Wharton Custom of the Country  (2)

 4/5 Film 4: Journey to Italy, Roberto Rossellini (1954). Film journal 4.

 4/7 Erica Jong Fear of Flying (1)

 4/12 Erica Jong Fear of Flying (2)

 4/14 Film 5: Jules and Jim, François Truffaut (1962). Film journal 5.

 4/19 Jean Genet Funeral Rites (1)

 4/21 Film 6. L'Atalante, Jean Vigo (1934). Film journal 6.

 4/26 Jean Genet Funeral Rites (2)  Final paper due (on one or several the literary texts of the syllabus with the exception of Carver).

fulfills requirements
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector III: Arts & Letters of the College's General Education Curriculum