Monday, May 9, 2016

Daydream Syllabus: In the end

Name that movie.
Almost a month and a half has gone by, but before I left for Korea, I received a request from a reader for a "daydream syllabus":

Can you please do a 'daydream syllabus' on literary endings? I would love to see your suggestions. I have been thinking about 'how to read and analyse endings' and I would really like to explore more materials! Do endings represent our inescapable desire to see a pattern and direction in the events that unfold around us? Do literary texts offer us islands of legibility in the otherwise illegible scrawl of time? Are endings immanent in every moment of the narratives we consume, or are endings the regrettably unavoidable terminal point at which the author is required to pull the plug on her own tale? What are the different generic modalities that apply to the idea of endings?
I'm flattered by the request, but feel myself at least a little short of the challenge. Would such a class be a long list of my favorite endings? How could you understand the ending of a work without reading the whole thing? Is there a literature on endings to build upon, or would you be trying to craft theoretical points wholesale? I'm still a little lost. But I've made my reader wait for far too long, and in the spirit of gamesmanship, have decided to take a stab at dreaming up a syllabus on... endings.

Part 1: Ending Lyric, Lyric Ending

Week 1: Closure in the Odes of Horace
Week 2: Crusoe in England
  • Elizabeth Bishop: Geography III
  • Helen Vendler: Last Books, Last Looks
Week 3: "Everything Must Be Suffered..."
  • Sappho 31 and Catullus 51
  • Armand D’Angour: "Love’s Battlefield: Rethinking Sappho fr. 31"

Part 2: Plotting Ending, Ending Plots

Week 4: God from a Machine
  • Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannos
  • Euripides: Alcestis
  • Aristotle, Poetics

Week 5: And His Life Fled with a Moan
  • Vergil, Aeneid 12
  • Karl Galinsky: "The Anger of Aeneas," AJP 109/3 (1988)

Week 6: Rewriting, Rereading
  • King Lear, Arden edition
  • Henry James: The Portrait of a Lady, ch. 55 (original and New York edition)

Weeks 7 and 8: Dissatisfaction?
  • William Shakespeare: Measure for Measure
  • Stendhal: La chartreuse de Parme

  • the Goldberg Variations
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

1 comment:

  1. Bonus week:
    - The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
    - The sense of an ending, Julian Barnes

    Thank you for the piece!