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Course description

Since the very first love story (Adam and Eve?), the first dream (Oedipus dreaming of his mother?), the first jokes and games, human beings have told stories and celebrated events motivated by desire. Throughout the ages, literature has been created from the desire to explain the unknown (myth), from sexual desire (erotic tales), desire to laugh at power and fear (comedy), desire to celebrate mysteries (religious ritual), desire to play (theater), desire to dream both asleep and awake (novels, fantasies and fairy tales). Judging from the popularity of ‘horror stories’ and ghost stories throughout time, we even apparently have an innate desire to be scared. Above all, art and literature seem to express the desire to give the imagination free rein, and to escape from the prison of rules and logic. What can explain the attraction of these widely varied manifestations of human desire? In a word, it all has to do with ‘forbidden fruit,’ and this course will look at examples in French literature and film that provide a banquet for the senses and the imagination. We’ll look at ideas about how and why we laugh, love, sacrifice, play, and dream, considering ideas from Freud’s writings and from other important creative thinkers, such as Jung and the surrealists, and finding ‘illustrations’ in movies, art, and literature. [Taught in English. The course is cross-listed with Comparative Literature 01:195:251:01].

Satisfies SAS Core Learning Goals - AHp or WCd

Course Objectives

This course will acquaint students with basic Freudian concepts concerning human desire and its relation to the creative process.  We will look at psychoanalytic theories concerning dream, myth, fairy tale, sacrifice, laughter, and eroticism.  In addition, the course will introduce students to major literary works of world literature written in French, including works of surrealism and the theater of the absurd, as well as novels by Colette, Laclos, and excerpts from Queneau and Vian.   We will also view major cinematographic works, and discuss film theme and technique, as expressions of ‘desire’ in both the filmmaker and the viewer.  The course seeks to expand the literary skills and vocabulary of the students, including their writing skills, through the requirement of two papers that will each have a rewrite option, allowing students to focus on specific writing issues and improve their faculties of critical analysis and expression.  The course fulfills the core writing requirement. 


¼: class participation and attendance  

¼: paper one : material in the first half of the course. 7 pages 

¼: paper two (take home essay-id format) material on second half of the course. 7 pages 

¼: individual power point oral presentation of student’s choice