"True Love": Men vs. Women in Ancient and Modern Culture
"It is the nature of desire never to be satisfied."--Aristotle.


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Spring Quarter, 2002 -- Schedule

Lecture and Discussion Topics

April 1.  Love Lyrics--Sappho to Gershwin. 

Readings: No assigned reading.  A selection of famous love poems will be analyzed and discussed in class. 

Discussion: What are the characteristic sentiments and attitudes expressed in love poems?  Are they sincere or posed?  Original or conventional?  For whom are they written and to what purpose? 

April 8.   Beyond Eros and Aphrodite: Platonic Love. 

Readings: Plato, The Symposium

Assignment:  AL-H, A-1-E paper assigned. (Due 6/3.) 

Discussion: What do we commonly mean by the phrase "Platonic Love" today? In what ways does The Symposium revolutionize ancient ideas about love and desire? 

April 15.   "Make Love Not War": The Battle of the Sexes in Greek Comedy and Myth. 

Reading: Aristophanes, Lysistrata.
Assignment: HC-C/H-3-B and H-2-E papers assigned. (Due 6/3.)

Discussion: Tragedy, Comedy, and Myth--what are they and what can we learn from them? 

April 22.   "Fatal Attractions and Basic Instincts": Male vs. Female in Greek Tragedy and Myth. 

Reading: Euripides, Medea.  

April 29.  The "Weaker Vessel"?: Women and Marriage in the Christian Middle Ages. 

Readings: Chaucer, "The General Prologue"; "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale." 

Discussion: Are Medieval attitudes toward chastity, fidelity, and promiscuity markedly different from views today? What about ideals of masculine and feminine virtue? Would relations between men and women improve if women made most of the decisions? 

May 6.  Women on a Pedestal: Chivalry and Courtly Love. 

Readings: Chaucer, "The Franklin's Tale." 

Assignment: AL-C exam distributed.  (Due 6/3.) 

Discussion: What is "courtly love" and to what extent does it continue to be a factor influencing male-female relationships today? 

May 13.  Shakespeare and the Invention of Romantic Comedy. 

Reading: Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew. 

Films: The Taming of the Shrew; Much Ado about Nothing; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Twelfth Night.

Discussion: 1. Bickering or seemingly mismatched couples have been a staple of comedy from the stages of Athens and Rome to today's movies and television. What examples can you find in recent popular culture? 2. Is love partly a product of imagination? That is, do we tend to fall in love with a shiny, idealized image of the beloved rather than a clearly perceived reality? 

May 20.  Modern Marriages: Comedies or Tragedies?. 

Reading: Ibsen, A Doll House
Films: A Doll’s House

Discussion: Have feminism and women’s liberation improved marital relationships? Do they threaten the continued existence of marriage as an institution? 

May  27. Memorial Day  Holiday. No  class.

June 3.  Marriage, Romantic Love, and Modern Tragedy. 

Reading: Ibsen, Hedda Gabler
FilmThe Age of Innocence

Assignment: All assignments due. 

Discussion: Why do tales of romantic love--especially those that end in sudden death--continue to captivate readers and audiences? 

Nov 13.  Summary and Review. 

  Note: Last class meeting. All assignments due. 


  Questions:  David L. Simpson (dsimpson@condor.depaul.edu) 
The School for New Learning, DePaul University , Chicago, IL 60604 
 © David L. Simpson, 1998