EGMT 1510: Love, Unrequited

Plato’s Symposium asks us to imagine Hephaestus, god of metalwork, puzzled as he looks upon a pair of lovers locked in an embrace. “What is it you two really want from each other?” he asks, “To be two parts of the same whole and never separate?” He then generously offers to weld the lovers together, so that the two may be forever one. No one, the text argues, would say yes to Hephaestus’ proposal. The true aim of our desires, after all, isn’t necessarily to fulfill them. What are the stakes of love, particularly of a love that is never returned or fulfilled? Why is unrequited love so often described through contradiction: burning ice, blissful torture, sublime pain? What aesthetic forms, expressions, and techniques are used to convey this internal psychic state to an external audience? With reference to a global set of works-- including poetry, novels, drama, and cinema-- this Engaging Aesthetics course will explore the long purchase of romantic longing as an aesthetic subject, and an ethical, epistemological, and social discourse across varied cultural and historical contexts.