Epic Love, Lust, and Loss

Most human beings want and seek romantic love, but is it worth the risks of heartache if love is uncertain, stigma if society disapproves, and heartbreak when love is lost? For answers to this question, we will turn to selections from classical epics, whose myths about Greek and Roman love goddesses and the mortals whom they grace illustrate the power of first love, the discomfort of unconventional attraction, the danger of infidelity, and the promise of reconciliation. To explore how these themes have been treated in the wider world, this course will feature field trips to the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis, the National Gallery of Art, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. These excursions will complement other course work, which will include class discussions of the diverse perspectives represented by our assigned readings, essays exploring the mythic lovers’ motivations, and responses to the writings of modern and postmodern critics seeking to extend the classical canon that covers our epic texts.

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