The Poetics of Love (LIT4268.01)

Camille Guthrie

Magic. Jealousy. Why. Tenderness. Scenes. Night. Waiting. Anxiety. Body. Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse (1978) examines the structure and language of the fictional and lived experience of love. In his analysis of Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther, Barthes observes the received ideas about love in order to demystify them and discover what remains radiant. With Barthes’s nuanced reading as our example, we will interrogate the discourse of love poetry—what are its vocabularies, image-repetoires, paradigms? Its preoccupations, its felicities? Its historical tropes and modern innovations? A classic example of this discourse appears in Shakespeare’s sonnet 130, “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing like the Sun,” a satire of the courtly tradition of the blazon, the genre of poetry in which women’s body parts are praised with metaphors, usually derived from nature. We will begin by reading canonical love poems with a focus on Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady” sonnets; then, we will turn our attention to Victorian poetry, including letters by Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman; next, we’ll study the women Modernists who questioned tradition and created new poetic figures; finally, we will read from a heady selection of 20th century and contemporary poetry and poetic prose. Our discussions will be rooted in various philosophies and theories about love, desire, and sexuality; readings may include Plato, Wilde, Foucault, Cixous, Sedgwick, Butler, hooks, Berlant.

Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a writing sample to cguthrie@bennington.edu by November 3, 2015. Class lists will be posted outside the Literature office on November 7.
Credits: 4
T 2:10pm - 4:00pm; F 2:10pm - 4:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 20
This course is categorized as All courses, Four Credit, Literature, 4000, Camille Guthrie, and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .