Here is the new senior course that I’ve designed for the 2015-1016 school year. I intend to offer this course as a year-long interdisciplinary elective…
Emotionology: Hope, Fear, Love
What are emotions? Do emotions reside in the body or in the mind? Which aspects of our emotional experience are universal, and which are culturally specific? This interdisciplinary course draws upon insights and methodologies from the core disciplines of science, history, and English. During each week of the year, we will explore recent breakthroughs that researchers across those three disciplines have generated about particular emotions: hope, laughter, fear, love, surprise, disgust, and so on.
First, we will examine recent insights into emotion generated by neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists. Do emotions have an evolutionary purpose? Do people control their moods and passions, or do people’s moods and passions control them?
Second, we will explore what social scientists have revealed about the role that emotions play in people’s social and political lives. How have norms related to the expression of emotion changed in recent years? Which emotions are most important in modern democracies?
Third, we will examine how various literary and cinematic fictions are able to generate emotion in readers. How are fictional texts able to “move” readers emotionally? And how can fictional texts move people to take action within the real world?
The readings for this course will include articles by scholars working in fields such as neurology, psychology, history, sociology, legal studies, and media studies. The literary texts will include novels, stories, and poems by authors like Emily Dickinson, Willa Cather, William Carlos Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison, John Edgar Wideman, Gish Jen, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Brenda Shaughnessy.