Mad Love

Mad Love

Write a total of five essays.. You may write on topic A or B or combine elements from both. . Do not quote dictionary definitions; avoid the passive voice; while you must quote from the text at hand, keep quotations short (abbreviate radically). Formulate a hypothesis or thesis based on the topics and then illustrate it with textual references (=show me you’ve read the text!) Do not append footnotes to your essays: At the end of your essays, add a “Works Cited” page with an alphabetical list of authors. Suppose you want to quote Jacques Derrida’s essay “Plato’s Pharmacy.” Just put (Derrida, p.XX) after the quotation and then list the author and title on the works cited page. If you quote more than one essay by Derrida, just add a number: (Derrida-1, p.XX or Derrida-2, p.XX) and indicate which is which on the works cited sheet. Be very careful of online resources–they’re often inaccurate. Do not start an essay by saying “The Greek philosopher Plato, in his Phaedrus, says the following . . .” Never include the name of the author and the title of the text in the first sentence! Just get to the point. No biographical or historical material, please. Focus exclusively on the subject. If you feel you must narrate in the first-person, you may, but remember the essays are about the assigned topics and not about your feelings.

I. Plato, Symposium, Phaedrus.

a. Write an essay on the value Plato assigns to truth in either or both dialogues. Take the following quotation as your point of departure. Be careful to explain what the rhetorical intentions of a mad lover are with regard to these distinctions–that is, what does the mad lover want to accomplish through words?

It is true there is the following distinction to be made between Lysias and his non-lover: that whereas the non-lover himself believes what he asks the boy in turn to accept, a professional like Lysias is not committed to the truth of the belief which his compositions attempt to inculcate in the jury. But this difference leaves undisturbed the fundamental similarity of their behavior. The crucial point is that in both cases speaker and audience have different goals . . . (G.R.F. Ferrari, Listening to the Cicadas: a Study of Plato’s Phaedrus, pp.225-6)
How does Plato use these “different goals” to show us the path to enlightenment?

b. Recall Martha Nussbaum’s statement–“I can choose to follow Socrates, ascending to the vision of the beautiful. But I cannot take the first step on that ladder as long as I see Alcibiades.” (198)–and use it as the basis for a discussion of the effects of Eros. What is the effect of seeing Alcibiades? Does Plato provide an inoculation against mad love or a cure for those already afflicted? How difficult would it be to climb that imaginary ladder Nussbaum mentions with or without Alcibiades present?

II. Euripides, Bacchae. David and Bathsheba in Samuel; Aeneas and Dido in Virgil, Aeneid, IV.

a. Using these three texts, referring to all (even if the reference is fleeting) but concentrating on the one that best illustrates your thesis, write an essay on how non-human powers use madness and mad love for their purposes. Discuss how and why the divinity uses its power (especially mad love) to achieve specific ends–the establishment of a cult (religion), the creation of a dynasty (social), the founding of a nation (political). Remember, Euripides is not interested in mad love, but he is interested in divine power.

b. Write an essay on the role of women in these three texts with regard to teleology–the notion that there is a design, intention, or pattern in nature or history. That is, women are key figures in all these works, but what is the meaning of their participation?

III. Ovid, Metamorphoses (“Echo and Narcissus,” “Venus and Adonis,” “Pygmalion”). Tristan and Iseult (summary) Dante Alighieri, Vita Nuova, “Paolo and Francesca,” Divine Comedy, Inferno V; Francesco Petrarca, poems from the Canzoniere.

a. On the matter of narcissism in some or all of these works—that is, you need not write on or refer to all. Take the following ideas from Richard Wollheim’s Sigmund Freud(1971) and use them to write an essay on the relationship between narcissism and mad love, paying close attention to the role of the body in this relationship:

The question immediately arises, How does narcissism differ from autoerotism? . . . Freud is charged with being dangerously ambiguous in his formulation of narcissism, since he conceives of it sometimes as an attraction to one’s own person, sometimes as an attraction to one’s own body. There is an ambiguity here, but I think that Freud would have claimed that the ambiguity lies in the situation itself, not in his conception of it. For . . . the concept that is integral to the situation–the ego–is itself ambiguously a mental and a corporeal concept. (126-7)

b. To what extent do Dante and Petrarch provide coherent yet radically different responses to the condition we call mad love, responses comparable to Plato’s? You may use the Ovid and Tristan/Iseult texts as examples or set them aside as you see fit. You might consider the role of art in this set of authors.

IV. Fernando de Rojas, Celestina.

a. Write an essay on the idea of mad love as infection as this text presents it. Look for causes: What is the source, if there is one, for mad love? What are its personal and social consequences? What methods are used, however ineffectually, to thwart or halt mad love?

b. The utterly physical nature of this text–its emphasis on bodies, on characters in social situations–would seem to ground it in realism. That is, it seems to be a mirror held up to a specific society. But is this really the case? Using both the idea of mad love and Celestina’s witchcraft, write an essay on the ambiguous nature of “reality” or “realism” in this work. That is, are we dealing with a realistic work of art here, or is the whole text an allegory that teaches us about the dangers of mad love?

V. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

a. While this play, like the Celestina, has the cast of characters typical of comedy (lovers, elders, blocking characters, clever servants) it is, nevertheless, a tragedy. Write a comparative essay on why Shakespeare creates a tragedy and Fernando de Rojas a work of another sort. You must, of course, refer to mad love in the formulation of your thesis.

b. Use the following quotation as a point of departure for an essay o Romeo and Juliet. Feel free to show how what happens in the play echoes other readings, especially in the curious relationship between love and mad love:

The basis of the tragic vision is being in time, the sense of the one-directional quality of life, where everything happens once and for all, where every act brings unavoidable and fateful consequences, and where all experience vanishes, not simply into the past, but into nothingness, annihilation. In the tragic vision death is, not an incident in life, not even the inevitable end of life, but the essential event that gives shape and form to life. Death is what defines the individual, and marks him off from the continuity of life that flows indefinitely between the past and the future.
(Northrop Frye,Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy, p.3)