LS 800: Reflections on Reason and Passion I

Fall 2015  | Dr. Sasha Colby

This course will explore a variety of texts – both written and visual – that in some way address the relationship between passion and reason, action and thought, desire and restraint and, in this sense, help us define the central tensions of experience.   While some consideration has been given to chronology, our major focus will be the feelings and behaviours of being human and the images and themes that have been used to represent this experience from ancient cultures to the present moment. We will also consider how certain texts have been absorbed, re-cast, and re-told.

Course Readings

Week 1: 
Sappho, Poems and Fragments 
Rumi, Love is A Stranger 
Selected Poems of H.D.   

Week 2:  
Sophocles, Antigone 
Anouilh adaptation, Antigone (Film)
SFU Library Link

Week 3:   
Plato, Phaedrus
Achebe, Things Fall Apart  - first half         

Week 4: 
Achebe, Things Fall Apart – second half
The Ramayana Introduction:
Adapted telling:
In Cantos
Rohinton Mistry – “Journey to Dharamsala”  (scan to follow)
Introduction to Wayang Kulit

Week 5:
Dante, Inferno
Machiavelli, The Prince                          

Week 6 :   
***Essay 1 Due in Class ***                                                                                                     
Catullus, Selected Poems
Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

Friday Night Fever:
Zephirelli’s Romeo and Juliet

Week 7:
Shakespeare, Othello

Week 8:

Martha Nussbaum, "Beyond Obsession and Disgust: Lucretius and the Therapy of Love", Chapter 5 in Nussbaum's The Therapy of Desire (Princeton, 1994)
Martha Nussbaum, "Compassion: Human and Animal", Institute of Development Studies Kolkata, Calcutta University, July 2008

Week 9:  
Pater, The Renaissance 
Ruskin, “The Nature of Gothic” 
Morris, “Useful Work versus Useless Toil”
Stoppard, The Invention of Love

Week 10:
Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto 
Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Carlyle, “Shooting Niagara – And after?” 

Week 11: 
***Essay 2 due in class*** 
Freud, Dora 
Cixous, Portrait of Dora 

Week 12:

Mann, Death in Venice
Ibsen, Hedda Gabler

Week 13:
Reflections and Re-tellings: ***Presentations***


Seminar presentation:  Everyone will have the opportunity to introduce one of the course texts.  A certain amount of background reading should be done so that you can provide context for the text, author, and historical moment.  Presentations should be approximately 12 minutes.

Essay 1: Argumentative close-reading:  The first essay assignment is designed to get you thinking critically and writing well about one or two of the texts we have encountered thus far.   It is a close-reading, which is to say that it is about your interpretation of the text and should not involve outside sources.  It is also an argumentative paper which means essays should have a thesis statement that is followed through during the course of the paper.  The paper should be 4-5 pages.

Essay 2:  Argumentative close-reading or personal essay The second essay offers you a choice.  You can either continue to work on argumentative close-readings or you can try a second type of essay, the personal or “phenomenological” essay similar to Mistry’s “Journey to Dharamsala” where research, personal observation, and a central course text are woven together.  The paper should be 5-6 pages.

Re-Telling:  A significant course focus will be on the way stories, themes, and ideas recur in a new form under new conditions in particular times in history.  For this assignment, you will “re-tell” one of our course texts in a way that can be presented in the final class.  A one-page statement of intent should accompany your re-telling.

Journals:  It is recommended that students keep a journal of their responses as they read at home and discuss in class. These can be invaluable when it comes to starting an assignment.