Master’s Class Announcement: C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex (Signum University Class)

I am truly pleased to be re-offering my course at Signum University this coming Fall, “C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex.” In this masters-level course, I use C.S. Lewis’ concept of four loves to structure a course about the great myths at the foundation of our culture. Ranging from the ancient world until now, these are the moments where stories of friendship, love, sex, marriage, fidelity, and devotion have intersected with the hinges of history. It will be a semester of great reading and transformational ideas. Consider joining us this autumn at Signum!

Click here for more information. This course is part of a slate of language and literature courses that make up Signum University’s unique, online, affordable MA program. You can focus on Germanic Philology, Tolkien Studies, Imaginative Literature (like Fantasy and SciFi), and Classical Literature. I have pre-recorded most of the lectures of this course and will be meeting with students each week to discuss the lectures and the great reading list. If you are interested in this course or if you are thinking about an MA program and want to know more about Signum, send me an email at brenton.dickieson@signumu.org.

About Signum University

Signum University believes education should be accessible, dynamic, and affordable. Signum is committed to establishing a completely virtual campus that will cultivate fruitful intellectual exchange between students and teachers, prolific vocational growth for our staff, and a vibrant academic community among our students.

Signum University and Mythgard Institute offer a unique digital campus environment in which students all over the world can engage throughout the course. Each class encourages rigorous academic conversation through multiple points of instruction and dialogue. Classes are available as part of the MA program, or as an inexpensive audit.

  • The Signum Classroom provides a convenient interface for live, direct interaction with instructors
  • A Class Forum provides a place for students and instructors to hold in-depth conversations about class-related topics
  • Discussion Sections offer a moderated setting where M.A. students can talk with each other on a weekly basis
  • Lecturer and preceptor Office Hours allow further conference opportunities to ask questions, clarify ideas, and present paper topics

C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex (Fall 2019)

Taught by Brenton Dickieson

This course explores some of the great mythologies of love that provide a background to today’s culture. Sketched out along the twin paths of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves and a chronological development of the idea of romantic love, we explore foundational stories of love, sex, fidelity and betrayal, romance, loss, marriage, and divine and devotional love.

This treatment of love and sex has six movements. In the prologue we ask questions about the conversations of sex and love today, we begin in the civilizational nursery by looking at some of the ideas of love in ancient Mediterranean cultures. As we move into the first chapter, we look at the emergence of Greek and Jewish understanding of love, and the Christian idea of agape, or unconditional love.

In the second chapter, we will see the development—and in some cases a recovery—of the myth of romantic love in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, including themes of devotional, courtly, forbidden, and erotic loves, as well as the forms of storytelling that blended them all. Once love stories have shed their allegorical undertones, Shakespeare is an accessible starting point to discuss the place of romantic love in culture. Shakespeare is in this way the inventor of the modern romantic tradition, though his work suggests an inversion of that tradition. While Goethe captures romantic love in all its poignancy, we see Jane Austen’s inversive mind expand the theme, and turn to the four loves with a powerful cultural treatment in Pride & Prejudice.

In chapter three we turn to familial loves. Perhaps no more rapid change in relationships has come in the family loves, particularly those between parents and children. We will read pieces that suggest that the reassertion of this parental love makes for new problems as romantic, religious, and vocational love sit in uncomfortable tension with that earliest of all loves. Problematizing parental love, then, serves as an opportunity to return to the messages and stories of love in culture today.

Chapter four’s consideration of friendship love leaves us in a difficult situation. Though popular culture is beset with friends on facebook and television, the deep traditions of friendship are largely lost to us. So we turn to some children’s literature to discuss this almost forgotten love.

As an epilogue to the class, we ask some questions about love and culture today. Are we really in a renewed romanticism? What is love in a digital age? What happens when love fails—or when the mythologies of love fail? Which is the most important of the loves? We will close by returning to an ancient theme of “calling,” meant to open questions as to where the reader sits in the world.

Course Schedule

We will schedule our discussion sessions later this summer. I will be live recording a lecture on The Four Loves, and there is a chance another book will find its way into the syllabus.

Prologue: Who Did Write the Book of Love?

Week 1: “Art is a Lie Which Makes us Realize the Truth”

    • Read: Tolkien, “Mythopoeia,” Genesis 1 – 3, Lewis, The Four Loves
    • Watch: The Princess Bride
    • Recommended: Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” Lady in the Water Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, 1980s Brat Pack films

Week 2: Introduction to Love, Religion, and Mythology

    • Read: Song of Solomon; Lewis, The Four Loves
    • Recommended: The Epic of Gilgamesh; Homer, The IliadThe Odyssey; the Cupid and Psyche cycle in Books 4 – 6 of The Golden Ass

Chapter One: The Emergence of Agape

Week 3: Greek and Christian Inventions of Love

Chapter Two: The Establishment (and Inversion?) of Eros

Week 4: Form, Flesh and Fidelity: The Art of Courtly Love

    • Read: Selections from The Letters of Abelard & Héloïse; Patristic and Medieval Writings handout; Selections from Lewis, The Allegory of Love
    • Recommended: Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur; Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love

Week 5: Shakespeare: The Invention (and Inversion?) of Romantic Love

    • Read: Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Sonnets handout
    • Recommended: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet

Week 6: Goethe and the Romantic Tradition

    • Read: The Sorrows of Young Werther
    • Recommended: Orlando

Week 7: Jane Austen and the Change of the Heart

Chapter Three: The Problem of Storge

Week 8: The Forbidden Love of Asher Lev

    • Read: Potok, My Name is Asher Lev

Week 9: When Love is No Better than Hate

Chapter Four: Can We Recover Philia?

Week 11: Where did Friendship Go?

HarperCollins Signature EditionEpilogue: Love and the Cosmos

Week 12: Plastic Bodies and Broken Hearts: Myths of Love Today

    • Read: Coelho, The Alchemist
    • Watch: Lars and the Real GirlEasy A
    • Recommended: Lewis, A Grief Observed

Texts

Most of these books are widely available in local libraries or in inexpensive editions. Any edition of the books is fine. Translation in parentheses; it is okay to choose a different translation. In some cases, handouts will be provided in class, as noted below.

We’ve linked to free online resources where possible. Where no legally free version is available, links point to the Amazon page where a copy of the text may be purchased. Purchases made through these links help Signum University at no additional cost to you.

Required Texts

Required Films

Suggested Works

Note: Course schedules, texts and other details are subject to change. Upon enrolling, students should refer to the syllabus and Moodle course page for the most current information.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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3 Responses to Master’s Class Announcement: C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex (Signum University Class)

  1. Emily says:

    Wow, love the line-up of required/recommended texts for the course! Fantastic choices!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I see you are an L.M. Montgomery reader. I wonder if I should put something in the syllabus…. Emily of New Moon I would love to teach.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Emily says:

        You’re welcome! What a great idea to add Montgomery (she goes well with everything, I think!). Interestingly, when I was young I wasn’t as big on Emily as I was with Anne (despite being an Emily), but as an adult, I really appreciate all the gothic elements in the Emily novels. I think it would a great addition to your list!! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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