Courses / Undergraduate

Spring 2014

  • Doomed Loved in the Cinema

    108 | CCN: 31669

    Mary Ann Doane

    4 Units

     In this course we will examine the many films–across different historical periods and in different genres–in which the failure of a love relationship is the principal focus of narrative structure. Is this frequency the result of a cultural heterosexual imperative? Does it also characterize films centering on homosexual relationships? What is the drive behind the constant repetition of this theme of doomed love? Why and how are pathos and melancholy foregrounded in these films and what idea of temporality do they espouse (e.g. the logic of the “too late”)? We will not take the concept of “love” for granted but dissect its various cultural meanings and historical/ideological functions. While the obsession with doomed love clearly predates the cinema (e.g. Romeo and Juliet), what are the implications of its specifically cinematic representation, what genres are its privileged vehicles? We will juxtapose the films with cultural theories of love such as those of psychoanalysis (Freud, Lacan, Adam Philips), history/psychology (Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World) and various semiotic/cultural theorists (Roland Barthes, Alain Badiou, Laura Kipnis, Lauren Berlant). These encompass theories that are both “pro-love” and “anti-love.” The cinematic genres inspected will include melodrama (Back Street, Brief Encounter, Humoresque, Letter from an Unknown Woman), the musical (West Side Story) and the art film (In the Mood for Love, Happy Together).