February 1 2016

Intro to Lit 8: Shelley and Milton’s sardonic God; moral judgment

On to Book 3 of Paradise Lost: Shelley on God's viciousness; God's jokes about Satan; similarities between the Son and Satan (via their courage) and God and Satan (via their gaming for humanity).  Question of justifying the ways of God to men: do we judge whether he's just?  How? Euthyphro dilemma.  Luther on God's apparently unjust ways (can't be justified independently to us).  Poetry in hell; philosophy in hell.


January 28 2016

More on the sublime: Burke and Satan

Back to Satan in Books 1 and 2, via Burke's chapter on "How words influence the Passions," where he quotes "Rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of death, / A universe of death" from Book 2.  The sublime in Burke and Kant (and Nietzsche, and a little Longinus) as the inner response to outer disorder, in contrast to the beautiful.  Delight vs. pleasure.  Magnificence of Satan.  "Yet faithful how they stood, / Their glory withered."


January 26 2016

Intro to Lit 5: Lear, Tate, Addison, Johnson, Freud

A last class on King Lear focusing on the question "Why does tragedy give pleasure?" Why do we like Johnson's shock at the death of Cordelia so much?  Why do we want depth? (...is the question though I didn't put it quite that way.)  Answer: friendship among mortals (which I almost put that way).  The only friend to a mortal is a mortal (again, almosting it).  Lear is about mortals:  Freud on "making friends with the necessity of dying" echoes Gloucester: "My son came then into my mind, and yet my mind was then scarce friends with him."  Mortality in King Lear is endless, but it's shared.  That's one reason the Fool has to be mortal: a fairy tale spirit who turns out to be the spirit of mortality (as I wish I had quite said).


January 23 2016

Intro, class 4: Testing in Lear; parallax; doubling; the Fool

More on fairy tale testing in Scene 1. Fairy tales as the world outside our world, which is the world of mortality Lear gets us into.   If you've heard the Shakespeare podcasts on Lear, the fairy tale testing approach is new, i.e. a more recent insight.  After that, the rest of the class is a quick version of the longer exposition in the Shakespeare classes: parallels and stereoscopic near parallels (i.e. parallax) between and among characters: "nothing will come of nothing," repeated with the Fool beginning the recuperation of Lear after his terrible first appearance; the rivalry between Kent and the Fool; Lear as the Fool's only friend.


January 21 2016

Shakespeare and window characters

First real day on King Lear.  Window characters who are there at the end as well as the beginning.  How Prufrock thinks of himself.  But how Shakespeare braids them together, so that windows become mains.  Conflict within scenes and between the groups who constitute the members of separate scenes.  Fairy Tale beginning of King Lear.  Lear sets a test for Cordelia, and she fails in his eyes, but wins in France's, which makes France (and Cordelia) win in ours.


January 14 2016

Intro to lit 2: Love personified from Surrey to Bishop

More on the bucket of poems from the first class, mainly about the personification of love.  Love and shipwreck,  In Plato, in Herbert, Love is personified as the god who personifies.  The burning child as personification of love: Southwell, Freud, Bishop.  The shipwreck is the proof of love, too.


January 13 2016

Introduction to Literary Studies - 1: Carroll, Jonson, Yeats

This is a course on a lot of different topics, genres, periods, and authors in English Language Literature, and on a few theoretical or critical texts that are relevant.  Like all introductory courses, we attempt to dive deep very, very quickly.  This is the first time I'm teaching it, which I hope will be a plus as well.  Some of the works we'll cover I've done in other podcasts (King Lear, Paradise Lost, but those are always different in different contexts and classes.  And context, or the suppression of context, turns out from the first class to be partly what the course is about.  In this first class you get to hear me recite "Jabberwocky" from memory, which I wasn't expecting to do, and then we discuss a wonderful song of Ben Jonson's and Yeats's "Circus Animal's Desertion."

Here is the syllabus, plus the "bunch of poems" that we are starting out with:



English 1a: Introduction to Literary Studies         


W        Jan 13              Introduction via a bunch of poems

Th       Jan 15              Introduction con’t; opening of Shakespeare’s King Lear


M        Jan 18:             NO CLASS

W        Jan 20              King Lear

Th       Jan 21              King Lear


M        Jan 25              King Lear, Aristotle: Poetics,

   Dr. Johnson, Freud: “The theme

   of the three caskets”

W        Jan 27              Milton: Paradise Lost           

Th       Jan 28              Milton: Paradise Lost


M        Feb 1               Milton: Paradise Lost

W        Feb 3               Milton: Paradise Lost

Th       Feb 4               Milton: Paradise Lost


M        Feb 8               Milton: Paradise Lost

W        Feb 10             Milton: Paradise Lost

Th       Feb 11             Milton: Paradise Lost                       


Feb 15-19:                   NO CLASS


M        Feb 22             Milton: Paradise Lost                                    First paper due

W        Feb 24             Pope: “Rape of the Lock”

Th       Feb 25             English Romanticism (Blake, Wordsworth,

                                      Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats);

                                      Wordsworth: Preface to Lyrical Ballads


M        Feb 29             English Romanticism

W        Mar 2              English Romanticism 

Th       Mar 3              English Romanticism


M        Mar 7              English Romanticism 

W        Mar 9              Brontë: Jane Eyre

Th       Mar 10                        Brontë: Jane Eyre


M        Mar 14                        Brontë: Jane Eyre

W        Mar 16                        James: The Aspern Papers

Th       Mar 17                        James: The Aspern Papers


M        Mar 21                        Joyce: “The Dead” L

W        Mar 23                        Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway L

Th       Mar 24                        Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway


M        Mar 28                        NO CLASS

W        Mar 30                        American romanticism (Emerson, Whitman, Dickinson)                                                                                                                   Second paper due

Th       Mar 31                        American romanticism


M        Apr 4              Ellison: Invisible Man , DuBois: “On the Training of Black Men” L

W        Apr 6              Ellison: Invisible Man

Th       Apr 7              Ellison: Invisible Man


M        Apr 11                        Beckett: Waiting for Godot

W        Apr 13                        Beckett: Waiting for Godot

Th       Apr 14                        O’Connor: The Violent Bear it Away


M        Apr 18                        OConnor: The Violent Bear it Away

W        Apr 20                        Ford: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance L

Th       Apr 21                        NO CLASS


Apr. 25-29                  NO CLASS


M        May 2             Soyinka: Death and The King’s Horseman    Final paper due




[So beauty on the waters stood]


Ben Jonson (1572–1637)


So beauty on the waters stood,

When love had sever’d earth from flood!

So when he parted air from fire,

He did with concord all inspire!

And them a motion he them taught,

That elder than himself was thought.

Which thought was, yet, the child of earth,

For Love is elder than his birth.


The Circus Animals’ Desertion


By William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)




I sought a theme and sought for it in vain,

I sought it daily for six weeks or so.

Maybe at last being but a broken man

I must be satisfied with my heart, although

Winter and summer till old age began

My circus animals were all on show,

Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,

Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.




What can I but enumerate old themes,

First that sea-rider Oisin led by the nose

Through three enchanted islands, allegorical dreams,

Vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose,

Themes of the embittered heart, or so it seems,

That might adorn old songs or courtly shows;

But what cared I that set him on to ride,

I, starved for the bosom of his fairy bride.


And then a counter-truth filled out its play,

`The Countess Cathleen' was the name I gave it,

She, pity-crazed, had given her soul away

But masterful Heaven had intervened to save it.

I thought my dear must her own soul destroy

So did fanaticism and hate enslave it,

And this brought forth a dream and soon enough

This dream itself had all my thought and love.


And when the Fool and Blind Man stole the bread

Cuchulain fought the ungovernable sea;

Heart mysteries there, and yet when all is said

It was the dream itself enchanted me:

Character isolated by a deed

To engross the present and dominate memory.

Players and painted stage took all my love

And not those things that they were emblems of.




Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind but out of what began?

A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,

Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,

Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut

Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone

I must lie down where all the ladders start

In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.


[They flee from me]


By Sir Thomas Wyatt  (1503-1542)


They flee from me that sometime did me seek

With naked foot, stalking in my chamber.

I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek,

That now are wild and do not remember

That sometime they put themself in danger

To take bread at my hand; and now they range,

Busily seeking with a continual change.


Thanked be fortune it hath been otherwise

Twenty times better; but once in special,

In thin array after a pleasant guise,

When her loose gown from her shoulders did fall,

And she me caught in her arms long and small;

Therewithall sweetly did me kiss

And softly said, “Dear heart, how like you this?”


It was no dream: I lay broad waking.

But all is turned thorough my gentleness

Into a strange fashion of forsaking;

And I have leave to go of her goodness,

And she also, to use newfangleness.

But since that I so kindly am served

I would fain know what she hath deserved.


Complaint Of The Absence Of Her Lover
Being Upon The Sea

By Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516/17-1547)

O HAPPY dames that may embrace
The fruit of your delight ;
Help to bewail the woful case,
And eke the heavy plight,
Of me, that wonted to rejoice
The fortune of my pleasant choice :
Good ladies ! help to fill my mourning voice.

In ship freight with rememberance
Of thoughts and pleasures past,
He sails that hath in governance
My life while it will last ;
With scalding sighs, for lack of gale,
Furthering his hope, that is his sail,
Toward me, the sweet port of his avail.

Alas !  how oft in dreams I see
Those eyes that were my food ;
Which sometime so delighted me,
That yet they do me good :
Wherewith I wake with his return,
Whose absent flame did make me burn :
But when I find the lack, Lord !  how I mourn.

When other lovers in arms across,
Rejoice their chief delight ;
Drowned in tears, to mourn my loss,
I stand the bitter night
In my window, where I may see
Before the winds how the clouds flee :
Lo !  what a mariner love hath made me.

And in green waves when the salt flood
Doth rise by rage of wind ;
A thousand fancies in that mood
Assail my restless mind.
Alas ! now drencheth1 my sweet foe,
That with the spoil of my heart did go,
And left me ; but, alas !  why did he so ?

And when the seas wax calm again,
To chase from me annoy,
My doubtful hope doth cause me plain ;
So dread cuts off my joy.
Thus is my wealth mingled with woe :
And of each thought a doubt doth grow ;
Now he comes !  will he come ?  alas !  no, no!

The Burning Babe


By Robert Southwell, SJ  (c. 1561-1595)


As I in hoary winter’s night stood shivering in the snow,

Surpris’d I was with sudden heat which made my heart to glow;

And lifting up a fearful eye to view what fire was near,

A pretty Babe all burning bright did in the air appear;

Who, scorched with excessive heat, such floods of tears did shed

As though his floods should quench his flames which with his tears were fed.

“Alas!” quoth he, “but newly born, in fiery heats I fry,

Yet none approach to warm their hearts or feel my fire but I!

My faultless breast the furnace is, the fuel wounding thorns,

Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke, the ashes shame and scorns;

The fuel Justice layeth on, and Mercy blows the coals,

The metal in this furnace wrought are men’s defiled souls,

For which, as now on fire I am to work them to their good,

      So will I melt into a bath to wash them in my blood.”

      With this he vanish’d out of sight and swiftly shrunk away,

      And straight I called unto mind that it was Christmas day.


Love (III)


By George Herbert (1593–1633)


Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back

                              Guilty of dust and sin.

But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack

                             From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

                             If I lacked any thing.


A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:

                             Love said, You shall be he.

I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,

                             I cannot look on thee.

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

                             Who made the eyes but I?


Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame

                             Go where it doth deserve.

And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?

                             My dear, then I will serve.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:

                             So I did sit and eat.




By Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835)


THE boy stood on the burning deck

Whence all but him had fled;

The flame that lit the battle's wreck

Shone round him o'er the dead.


Yet beautiful and bright he stood,

As born to rule the storm;

A creature of heroic blood,

A proud, though childlike form.


The flames rolled on -- he would not go

Without his father's word;

That father, faint in death below,

His voice no longer heard.


He called aloud -- "Say, father, say,

If yet my task is done?"

He knew not that the chieftain lay

Unconscious of his son.


"Speak, father!" once again he cried,

"If I may yet be gone!"

And but the booming shots replied,

And fast the flames rolled on.


Upon his brow he felt their breath,

And in his waving hair,

And looked from that lone post of death

In still, yet brave despair.


And shouted but once more aloud,

"My father! must I stay?"

While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,

The wreathing fires made way.


They wrapt the ship in splendor wild,

They caught the flag on high,

And streamed above the gallant child,

Like banners in the sky.


There came a burst of thunder sound--

The boy -- oh! where was he?

Ask of the winds that far around

With fragments strewed the sea!--


With mast, and helm, and pennon fair

That well had borne their part--

But the noblest thing that perished there

Was that young, faithful heart.





By Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)


Love's the boy stood on the burning deck

trying to recite "The boy stood on

the burning deck." Love's the son

stood stammering elocution

while the poor ship in flames went down.


Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,

even the swimming sailors, who

would like a schoolroom platform, too,

or an excuse to stay

on deck. And love's the burning boy.








May 7 2014

26. Milton: freedom and necessity, the tyrant’s plea

Last class of the semester, with a brief summary of the first books of Paradise Lost, with special attention to the similarities, intersections, and overlaps between Satan and God.


May 5 2014

19. Last film class: Peeping Tom and lots of psychoanalytic talk about scopohilia

Last film class of the semester, on Peeping Tom and some of the ideas of scopophilia behind it, especially from Freud and Fenichel.  What is the MacGuffin in Peeping Tom?  In a way (though I run out of time to say it this way): it's a meta-MacGuffin: we are trying to figure out which of many possible things the MacGuffin is going to turn out to be.  That's what we're looking to discover.


25. Some more on Paradise Lost

Ideas of freedom in Milton -- mind vs. world analogized to independence or dependence of idea of justice.  In a nutshell: if justice is independent of God's will, the mind is its own place, as Satan says.


April 28 2014

24. First class on Milton

I spend more time maybe than ever before on the opening of Paradise Lost and the idea of invoking the Muse.  This naturally involves a long excursus on psychoanalytic technique and its relation to prayer.  Naturally.


18. Peeping Tom, sort of but mainly Freud on instincts, pleasure, unpleasure, and scopophilia

The film assigned was Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), but mainly we discussed Freud on pleasure vs. unpleasure, instincts, their vicissitudes, what we want and what we don't, with just a very little attention to scopophilia itself, to which we'll return in the last class Tuesday April 29th.


April 22 2014

23. Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House” (briefly) and then “The Unfortunate Lover”

Brief considerations of the historical, political and personal background of "Upon Appleton House," and then the rest of the class on "The Unfortunate Lover."  Worst love poem ever written?  Or amazing and strange outlier.  Hint: the latter.  Some talk of vexillogy, in particular of heraldic blazons, for those who get excited by that sort of thing.


18. Vertigo and Freudian repetition

We start by viewing one of the film projects that a student did for his midterm: blinking eyes.  This will be more or less silent in the podcast, for a minute or two.  Then a discussion of blinking, partly Erwin Goffman style.  And then on to Vertigo, another movie about repetition: one's own; the world's; the other's.  Comparison to Groundhog Day and Source Code.  Opening considerations on Freudian repetition, as in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, via an account of the relation of pleasure to instinct or drive (the incentive that a drive aims at or the incentive to reduce unpleasure that drives the drive), and the the beginning of a discussion on repetition compulsion among shell-shocked veterans of the Great War.


April 17 2014

22. Marvell - The Garden

A class sort of entirely on Marvell's Garden: sort of because we have occasion to talk about synecdoche vs. non-synecdochal metonymy, which naturally gets us talking about W.V. Quine, and therefore his nephew Robert Quine (guitarist who recorded the Velvets and worked with Lou Reed), and then Anthony and the Johnsons, because of course.


April 9 2014

21. Marvell: Damon the Mower and The Garden

First class on Marvell: Introduction mainly about what we (what I) don't know, but with some historical context.  (There's a new biography, which I haven't read, which apparently has lots of new information.)  Empsonian explanation of pastoral.  Eliot on minor vs major, good vs great poetry.  "The Mower Against Gardens," and being rich in hay.  Figuration in "The Garden."  A lot of this course is about the fascinating subtleties of figuration in our poets, and this is something we'll concentrate on in "The Garden," both this class and next.


April 5 2014

16. Other worlds and other minds in Source Code and Groundhog Day

Final class on Source Code and Groundhog Day.  Acting.  Repetition.  Subject and object.  Death and other minds.  Why Groundhog Day is a more radical movie than Source Code (in case you need to know).  Counterparts.  Would you transport yourself to another world where you'd switch places with your counterpart in order to be with the surviving counterpart of your dead love here?  Would that be enough?


20. Last class on Herbert: The Forerunners; The Pulley

Never got to "Love" (III).  We go through "The Forerunners" again and the relationship of the soul to language and expression in that poem, and Herbert's addresses to his own language; then on to "The Pulley" and the interplay of wealth and poverty there (as in "Redemption").


March 30 2014

19. George Herbert: Jordan (I), The Flower, Easter Wings, etc.

Herbert's view of poetic subject.  "Jordan" (I); "Easter Wings" and its prosody.  "The Flower," and a start to "The Forerunners."


15. Source Code

The plausibility of Source Code.  Possible worlds in Lewis.  Truth-makers.  ("If a sentence is true, there's something that makes it true." --Donald Davidson)  Some vague, but licensed BS about quantum theory and the many worlds interpretation, and how that fits in with Source Code.  Differences between Source Code and Groundhog Day,


March 28 2014

14. Groundhog Day

A class on repetition in Groundhog Day; a little bit of discussion of Kierkegaard and the idea that repetition is always a step behind.  How this plays out in the movie: what comes first before it's repeated.  How much is left to elision.  How philosophical issues in the movie overlap with technical and narrative demands of film making.  Groundhog Day compared to Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, and to the Mr. Magoo version of A Christmas Carol.


18. First class on George Herbert

His relation to his vocation as priest and as person.  His ministry.  Typology - prefiguration and correlative types.  Being an Aaron: "Aaron Dressing," "Denial," and "The Collar."


March 26 2014

13. Skepticism and Zeno’s paradoxes, again

A class on the difference between external world skepticism and other mind skepticism: their conceptual independence.  Parmenides and Zeno on why to be skeptical of the external world.  Filming Achilles and the tortoise: what you'd see. Egerton. Berkeley's solution to Zeno's paradoxes.


17. 17th century poetry: a class on Robert Herrick

The wonderful Robert Herrick, and a few of his poems: his relation to Jonson; his erotic lyrics.  Just a class on Herrick, really.


March 25 2014

16. 17th c poetry, mainly Jonson’s Cary-Morrison Ode

Last class on Ben Jonson: a little time on his Weston-Stuart Epithalamion, and then most of the case on the Cary-Morrison Ode, with special attention, in both poems, to Jonson's stunning formal brilliance.

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