Reckless Desire (LIT2545.01)

Manuel Gonzales

I’m not a scientist, but I’m going to full-throatedly argue, scientifically and unimpeachably, that every living creature harbors a desire, whether conscious or instinctive, often more than one desire at a time. A bevy of tree nuts. A good place to take a winter’s-long nap. A cup of coffee. A better job. An easier time of it all. Life is rife with desire. And what’s more, desire in and of itself is not reckless.

And yet!

Every good story turns on a character’s desire gone reckless: Gatsby’s desire for Daisy; Terabithia’s desire for a bridge (to be fair, I haven’t read that book, so I might be misrepresenting it’s content); Odysseus’s desire to be cleverer than everyone else (I know, “cleverer” instead of “more clever”? Risky business but rule of thumb says one syllable always the -er and three or more syllables always the ‘more’ but two syllables? two syllables is dealer’s choice and “more clever” doesn’t scan as well); Humbert Humbert’s desires for, well, you know, we all know, and if you don’t know, you can register for Professor Boully’s course on Lolita; Elizabeth Bennet’s desire for independence and autonomy; Emma Bovary’s desires, full stop.

In this class we will be reading novels that speak to specific and damning desires (damning to someone, whether author or character or reader). These texts will be pulled from authors writing in the 19th and early 20th centuries as well as producing work in the here and now, or at least the recently then and soon to be. We’ll focus on how authors employ social mores and specific circumstances to heighten the recklessness of these desires, what historical context and society’s criteria can tell us about how these desires were perceived and, in some cases, punished, and whether and how these desires continue to be transgressive or not. The tentative reading list includes, but is not limited to (nor guaranteeing) Madame Bovary by Flaubert, Lady Chatterly’s Lover by Lawrence, The Vegetarian by Han Kang, My Education by Susan Choi, and Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor. Students in class will be asked to write critically and fully participate in class discussions as well as complete a final project.

Learning Outcomes:
*An understanding through critical analysis of narrative structure and character desire in literature from the 19th, 20th, and 21st century.
*An understanding of the role of historical context and social contracts in establishing and defining societal transgressions.
*An understanding of the role of privilege or lack thereof when determining the reckless nature of a desire.
*An understanding of the means by which works of literature hope to bolster or undermine what society might view as reckless when it comes to personal desires.

Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Course Level: 2000-level
Credits: 2
Tu 2:10PM - 4:00PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 20
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: 2000 , All courses , Fully In-Person , Literature , Two Credit
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