Narratives of Kinship, Gender, and Desire
At a moment when popular culture is obsessed with the psychology of happiness and of the importance of individual choice, our understanding of the impact of family and of social bonds is being highlighted more than ever before. As the sciences discover more about the nature of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, and predispositions, novel questions are being raised about how we come to find our place in the world of family and of community and, as a result, former ideals about manhood and womanhood are being revised in relation to newly defined kinship roles. This course will draw upon various traditions of world literature as a means to examine the evolving concept of the rapport between kinship, revolt, and sexual transgression regarding both immediate and extended family across the ages. We will read and analyze primary texts that develop characters who define happiness in their own terms, whether or not they are able to generate the social and familial environments that will support and sustain it. The syllabus includes plays, short stories, and novellas by Sophocles, Stefan Zweig, Ernest Hemingway, Katherine Mansfield, Rabindranath Tagore, Alice Monroe, Tillie Olsen, Sherman Alexie, Jhumpa Lahiri, and the film Monsieur Lazhar (2011, dir. Philippe Falardeau). Students will be introduced to relevant secondary writings and will learn to write academic essays on primary texts, as well as on multiple texts that include comparative analysis and the integration of secondary sources.