English 179:  Flesh & Spirit

 [michelangelo's david]

Professor  Jeffrey J. Cohen , Department of English and Program in Human Sciences
Rome Hall 763 (Academic Center)
Office Hours:  Monday and Wednesday, 3:30-4:30 
email:  jjcohen@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu

This course explores the relationship between body and soul, spirit and flesh throughout Western history, with a special emphasis on the medieval period.  We will be especially interested in texts as bodies, bodies as texts, and the relationship between knowledge and obscenity.  Although not required, you will find this course very difficult unless you have already taken English 120 (Critical Methods).

WARNING:  This is a challenging course with a high workload and a demanding teacher.  In order to do well, you must read critically a diverse selection of literature and philosophy, write excellent analytical papers, and contribute to the intellectual debate in the class.  Some people will find  some of the material included in this course obscene or offensive, and that is perfectly fine;  however, if you cannot approach the material with an open mind and some critical distance, you should take a different course.

Requirements:  class attendance and participation (missing more than TWO classes means you have failed the course); a midterm exam;  several short writing assignments;  a  critical paper;  and a final exam.  All deadlines are firm. Late papers will not be graded.  **A coursepack is available from Select Printing**
August 25 Introduction:  Body and Mind
August 27 Plato, The Symposium                     
  • The Plato Page (a collection of information about the philosopher and his works)
September 1 Labor Day
September 3  Abelard and Heloise:  Historia Calamitatum and "Personal Letters" (Penguin edition, pp. 57-156)                   
September 8  Margery Kempe I (read most of book)                   
September 10 Margery Kempe II (finish book, read critical essay by Gayle Margherita in coursepack)
September 15 Robert Gluck, Margery Kempe                 
September 17 Judith Butler, "Imitation and Gender Insubordination";  Marjorie Garber, "Spare Parts:  The Surgical Construction of Gender" (course pack)                
September 22
  • Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Venus in Furs (in Masochism)
    • Sacher-Masoch Web Site (includes biography, commentary on Venus in Furs, and related links)  [under construction]
    • BDSM listing from the "Society and Culture" section of Yahoo!
    September 24 Gilles Deleuze, "Coldness and Cruelty" (in Masochism)              
    September 29  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight             
    October 1 Carolyn Dinshaw, "A Kiss is Just a Kiss" (coursepack)             
    •  Medieval Masculinities , a hypertext article which gives a more general overview of medieval gender construction
    October 6 Asser's Life of King Alfred (in Alfred the Great, 65-110)      
    •  Anglo-Saxon Culture  Page from Labyrinth
    •  Regia Anglorum , a gathering of information about A-S England (including how to brew your own beer like they did way back when)
    October 8 MIDTERM EXAM
    October 13 Columbus Day
    October 14 Designated Monday -- MOO Project    
    This project is very simple:  you have to play at your computer for an hour or so, think about it, and then write a one page (typed) reaction paper which explains what the project has to do with the themes of the course -- that is, how does a virtual world provoke you to think about the relationship between subjectivity and embodiment?    
    •  Chat Links from Yahoo! Server  (follow any of these links to an easy Java-based chat environment.  Try several and see which one you like best.  Just make sure you are using a computer running an up to date browser).
    October 15 William Gibson, Neuromancer;  MOO Project report due  
    • William Gibson Information from The Finn (a fan page with lots of links to Net resources about the author who first imagined cyberspace)
    October 20 Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend I   
    •  The CatholicMobile Saints Page   Deep resources on saints and saints' lives.  For something unique and scholarly, check out Paul Halsall's calendar of lesbian, bi, gay, and transsexual saints.
    October 22 Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend II;  Simon Watney, "The Spectacle of AIDS";  Richard Meyer, "Robert Mapplethorpe and the Discipline of Photography" (course pack) 
    October 27 Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom I 
    October 29 Marquis de Sade, The 120 Days of Sodom II;  Simone de Beavoir, "Must We Burn Sade?" 
    November 3 Laxdaela Saga I
    •  Information about Iceland   From the Embassy of Iceland right here in DC.  Includes history, population statistics, geography.
    November 5 Laxdaela Saga II;  Carol Clover, "Regardless of Sex" (coursepack)
    November 10 David Halperin, "Does Sexuality Have a History?" (coursepack);  1st paragraph of paper due in class
    November 12 paper writing workshop
    November 17 paper consultations
    November 19 PAPER DUE IN CLASS
    November 24 [catch-up day]
    November 26 no class (Happy Thanksgiving)
    December 1 Octavia Butler, Dawn
    December 3 Conclusions