Tu/Th 12:30-02:00 204 Dwinelle Instructor: Katie Kadue
From fairy tales to rom-coms, a story that ends in marriage – after many twists and turns, accidents and obstacles – is, by definition, a story with a happy ending. In certain literary genres, marriage is so integral to narrative structure that “the marriage plot” is synonymous with plot itself.Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.
-Justice Anthony Kennedy, Obergefell v. Hodges
“You see, François, marriage is a beautiful mistake which two people make together. But with you, François … I think it would be a mistake.”
–Trouble in Paradise (1932)
From fairy tales to rom-coms, a story that ends in marriage – after many twists and turns, accidents and obstacles – is, by definition, a story with a happy ending. In certain literary genres, marriage is so integral to narrative structure that “the marriage plot” is synonymous with plot itself. For both the characters within these narratives and their readers and viewers, however, the constraints of this plot can feel less like formal characteristics than like the workings of a more nefarious kind of plot, the machinations of which ensnare rather than enchant. As much as marriage has been celebrated as a timeless institution, “essential to our most profound hopes” as humans, it is also a specifically historical institution, supported by specific ideological interests that don’t always align with individual desires. When failure to embrace the marriage plot means a failure to perform prescribed gender and class identities, the results can be socially repressive, aesthetically productive, or both.
In this course, we will encounter stories that revolve around marriage and stories that simply run into it, stories that end (as far as we can tell) happily ever after and stories that devolve into drudgery, disappointment, or death. We will ask how the marriage plot and its variants function differently in Shakespearean drama, nineteenth-century novels, and twentieth-century films, how even the most “conventional” marriage plots rely on deception and deviation, and how fictional characters construct their own romantic expectations through their (often uncritical) consumption of literature.
This is a writing-intensive and discussion-based course with a research component, and our goal is to improve close reading, critical thinking, and analytical writing as mutually reinforcing skills.
Students will be expected to complete regular short writing assignments as well as drafts and revisions of longer papers, and will be entering into conversation with secondary sources to help build richer arguments.
Texts and films may include: Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Othello; Austen, Pride and Prejudice; Flaubert, Madame Bovary; Cukor, The Philadelphia Story; Lubitsch, Trouble in Paradise; Godard, Contempt; Maguire, Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Additional short readings from authors like Berlant, Cavell, Engels, and Freud will be available in a course reader.