HUMS 244, Modernities - Love, Marriage, Family: A Psychological Study through the Arts

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1pm-2:15pm

Course Description:

A psychological study of love, marriage, and family through literature, visual arts, and music, from the ancient world to the mid-20th century.
A wide variety of media and genres will be considered, including drama, myth, poetry, stories, and novels; painting, sculpture, film; opera, and music. Works will be principally drawn from the Western tradition alongside some from Indian, Chinese, and Arabic traditions. Topics may include: intra-familial relationships such as trust, authenticity, and self-knowledge; dominance and power in love relations; reason versus passion; conscious versus unconscious motivation; freedom versus constraints of all kinds; loyalty and betrayal; social expectations versus individual desires; public versus private life; perspectives on parental and filial obligation; disjunctions between feeling loved and feeling understood; alienation and loneliness versus intimacy; competing personal and professional commitments inside and outside the home. We shall study these themes not only as they have been treated at different times and in different parts of the world, but also how they are portrayed in each of the arts.

Led By:

Professor Howard Bloch

Professor Howard Bloch is Sterling Professor of French at Yale University. He has written on a variety of topics in and around medieval literature and social history, legal, economic, familial, and political institutions, humor and the fabliaux, gender and the rise of Western romantic love and the history of the discipline of Medieval Studies.

Bloch holds a medal from the Collège de France, is an officer in the Order of Arts and Letters, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society.  He is currently completing a book on Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard.” 

Professor Ellen Handler Spitz

Ellen Handler Spitz is a Senior Lecturer in the Humanities Program at Yale University. After public and private secondary education in New York and England, she attended the University of Chicago, Barnard College (A.B.), Harvard University (M.A.T.), and Columbia University, where she was awarded the Ph.D. in 1983. She also studied at the Art Students League in New York; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; at SUNY, Purchase, under the celebrated woodcut artist and illustrator, Antonio Frasconi; and at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

She is the author of Art and Psyche (Yale University Press, 1985), Image and Insight (Columbia University Press, 1991), Museums of the Mind (Yale University Press, 1994), Inside Picture Books (Yale University Press, 1999), and The Brightening Glance (Pantheon Books, 2006; Anchor-Vintage Books, 2007). With several colleagues, she co-edited Freud and Forbidden Knowledge (Columbia University Press, 1994) and Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor: Multiple Takes (Wayne State University Press, 1998). She has published numerous articles, chapters, and reviews in a wide variety of venues ranging from scholarly peer-review journals, such as the Journal of Aesthetic Education and American Imago, where she is a member of the editorial board, to public newspapers, such as The New York Times Book Review and The Baltimore Sun. Her books have been translated into several foreign languages, including Italian and Japanese, and some of her other writings into Russian and Chinese.

Among her abiding interests are the cultural lives of young people, the relations between aesthetics and psychology, and interconnections among various art forms, including literature, music, and dance, as well as the visual arts.