"True Love": Men vs. Women in Ancient and Modern Culture

"The course of true love never did run smooth. . . ."
-- A Midsummer Night's Dream, I, i, 134.

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An interdisciplinary course exploring a range of topics relating to love, sexual politics, and human relationships--from the antagonisms of male and female in the drama of ancient Athens to the confusions or transformations of gender portrayed on the Hollywood screen today. 

    The main concern of the course is the cultural history of love--with particular emphasis on the subject as it has been represented in Western art and literature. In effect, instead of examining love via the pronouncements of its current high priests (sexologists, psychotherapists, supermarket-magazine editors, and talk-show hosts), students will study it largely through the works of its traditional masters--poets and philosophers. They will discover, for example, that Plato and Shakespeare offer insights into love and jealousy that are at least as subtle and complex as those of Leo Buscaglia or Hallmark cards. That Sappho and Schopenhauer can be as outrageous and electrifying on the topic of sexual desire as anything on Jerry Springer or Dr. Ruth. And that just a few pages of Proust or Chaucer supply a deeper and livelier account of fidelity and betrayal, devouring passion, and primal sensuality than can be found in an entire rack of today's best-selling sex primers and matrimonial guides. 

"Whoever's ignorant of the art of loving 
May study my book, and gain consummate skill."--Ovid, The Art of Love, I, 1-2. 
  Although the principle materials of the course will be literary texts (mostly poetry and drama), class discussions will also draw on a selection of  influential scientific, historical, and other non-fiction works--including readings from Freud, Beauvoir, J.S. Mill, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Mary Woolstonecraft--and on current films and works of popular journalism and literature. 
"It's absurd to put love and friendship in the same category. Sexual love is impetuous and fickle, a feverish flame subject to sharp swellings and flickerings, fits and lulls, spurts and interruptions. Friendship, on the other hand, is a constant warmth, moderate and even, smooth and gentle, with no pain or bitterness. Moreover, love is nothing but a frantic chase for whatever eludes us; once our desire is satisfied, it is extinguished; enjoyment kills it. Friendship, on the other hand, is constantly nourished and never dwindles; enjoyment only increases it."--Montaigne, "Of Friendship." 

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