Love and Desire in the Nineteenth Century

This course explores forms of love and desire in Victorian literature, with attention to their philosophical, historical, and aesthetic contexts. We will begin with the hypothesis that nineteenth-century ideas about love were shaped by encounters with literature and visual art. Victorians found models of desire in the adulterous kiss of Dante’s Paolo and Francesca and the vampiric gaze of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, in Sappho’s fragments and Shakespeare’s sonnets – but also in the bodily experiences of reading books and contemplating art. As we move from the end of romanticism to the fin-de-siècle, we will ask the following questions: How did the pleasures of reading and looking influence nineteenth-century aesthetics? How did history license or constrain the Victorian erotic imagination? How does desire drive a range of literary genres (the sonnet sequence, the sensation novel, the love letter, aestheticist prose)? Authors include Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, William Morris, Christina Rossetti, Walter Pater, Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), Michael Field, and Oscar Wilde, with additional readings in Hegel, Stendhal, and Freud. Visits to the Yale art collections will inform our discussions.

Undergraduate Course #: 
TTh 11:35am-12:50pm
WR, Hu
Course Attribute: 
Pre-1900 Lit
pre-1900; 18th/19th Century