Live life more intensely. Be more passionate, fiery, tender. Achieve this, and your own life will be more meaningful, more full, more profound.
This is the message of almost every novel, poem, and film. This course explores the following question: What does literature suggest an intensely lived life might be? What do books and films really know about life? Yes, they dwell lots on its beginnings and endings, on birth and death. They focus too on its highpoints, and on the turning points where life changes. This course explores how from the eighteenth century to the present the meanings of life itself have changed, and how literature, reflecting this, has changed also. For example, does the medical view of life match the versions of life told by culture? We will look at how life—not only, but mostly, human life—has been represented, questioned and rethought by looking at parts of a set of big books—from Robinson Crusoe to Jane Eyre to Joyce’s Ulysses—films by Alain Resnais, David Cronenberg, and Jane Campion, and a series of poems, plays and stories by John Keats, Elizabeth Browning, Conan Doyle, Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Yeats, J. G. Ballard, and Irvine Welsh. As a final project, students have the option of writing a paper or making a video that engages the material of the course.