Term: Spring 2010

Subject Code: GLIB

Course Number: 5888

"Pleasure," Oscar Wilde writes in The Picture of Dorian Gray, "is the only thing worth having a theory about." This course investigates the history of pleasure through philosophy and literature from the classical to contemporary period. A long-standing conundrum, pleasure has been variously approached as an ethical or an aesthetic problem, as a positive experience to be cultivated, or as a disorderly force to be controlled. Tracing a history from Plato's distinction between "true" and "false" pleasures to Enlightenment pornography, Utilitarian "hedonic calculus," and contemporary debates about "the politics of pleasure," the course explores what is at stake in the fundamental and powerful impulse of pleasure. Readings include Plato's Republic and Philebus, Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, writings on Epicureanism and Hedonism, Sade, Bentham, Mill, Wilde (Dorian Gray), Freud (Beyond the Pleasure Principle), Huxley (Brave New World), Eliot (The Waste Land), Horkheimer and Adorno, Foucault, Jameson, Kipnis, and readings from the 21st century pop-psychology phenomenon of "happiness studies."

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