ENGL 237
Gender and Desire 1200-1600 Spring 2010
Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Cross-listed ENGL 237 / WGST 237 / COMP 237
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

The celebration of “courtly love” by medieval and Renaissance writers institutionalized the notion of the desiring male subject and the desired female object that continues to reverberate in contemporary culture. But early writers do not always, or even usually, endorse these positions uncritically, and even works that elevate heterosexual love devote surprisingly large spaces to other kinds of desire. What does it mean, for example, that the fountain of Narcissus occupies the center of the garden of courtly love in the Romance of the Rose? That despite the Lover’s proclaimed desire to “possess” the Rose, it is the male God of Love he kisses on the mouth? Shakespeare’s comedies end famously with triple and quadruple marriages, but how should we read the cross-dressing and gender confusion that occupy so much of the plots beforehand? As we explore these and other issues, we will supplement our literary readings with theoretical texts drawn from medieval and Renaissance treatises as well as contemporary feminist, psychoanalytic, and queer theory. The goal of the course is to sharpen critical reading and writing skills across a broad range of literary forms and historical, cultural and aesthetic values. As part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative, this course focuses on relationships between same- sex and heterosexual desire in a variety of major pre- and early modern works, and in the analyses of contemporary critics who undertake to explain (or explain away) the same-sex desire in them. In doing that, of course, we explore our own values and assumptions in a much longer historical context than usual.
The Class: Format: discussion/seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 19
Class#: 3621
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, four or five papers of varying lengths including one revision, and occassional oral reports; 20-25 pages of writing
Prerequisites: a 100-level English course
Enrollment Preferences: first-year students, sophomores, English majors who have yet to take a Gateway, and potential Comparative Literature majors
Unit Notes: meets Gateway and pre-1700 requirements in English major only if registration is under ENGL
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Exploring Diversity Initiative
Notes: meets Division 1 requirement if registration is under ENGL or COMP; meets Division 2 requirement if registration is under WGST
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL 237 Division I WGST 237 Division II COMP 237 Division I
Attributes: ENGL 200-level Gateway Courses

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