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PWR 2JW: What We Talk about When We Talk about Love

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Not offered 2021-2022 

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent

Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Love is said to be the key to everything from psychological development to achieving social justice. But as renowned psychologist Erich Fromm said as far back as the 1950s, love appears to be disintegrating in modern society. This may be partly because most of us don’t in fact understand it very well. It may be true that, as the Beatles say, All You Need is Love, but it also seems, as Lady Gaga says, we Don’t Know What Love Is. This class is designed to give students an opportunity to take a deep dive into the nature of love—its history, its practice, and how it has been studied. We will look at all types of love, from familial and brotherly to romantic and spiritual, and you will be introduced to conflicting ways it has been defined (a drive, an emotion, an orientation to the world, etc.), functions it has often been given (reproduction, kinship, finding ultimate truth, etc.), and ways people have cultivated it (service, therapy, spiritual practice).

This course will also introduce you to how various disciplines such as anthropology, biology, psychology, and art approach a complex experience such as love. After we get a taste of how various fields understand and study forms of love, you will then develop a question of you own about the history, science, or practice of love and do original research which you’ll then share with the class. You might, for example, compare notions of love from different cultures that interest you, or across different time periods, or you might investigate the role love plays in current theories and practices of recent social justice movements. If you are interested in fields such as psychology, neuroscience, or medicine, you might investigate why and how love has re-emerged as an object of study, or how those fields describe and recommend developing it as a capacity.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5-minute live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) Your initial presentation will introduce the class to the research question you are developing, why it’s important to you and your potential audience, and lay out how you plan to investigate it. You might, for example, propose examining how love is taught or practiced within a particular religious tradition or modern therapeutic orientation.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) This analysis will be the product of your proposed research. Practicing skills you developed in PWR 1, you will describe your inquiry, its findings, and their importance, advancing a specific point of view that will teach us something new about the understanding or practice of love.

Genre/Modes assignment

(TBD) You will have the opportunity to create a very short companion piece that makes the case of your research essay in a very different way. This might be anything from a micro-fiction or song to a research presentation poster or editorial. You’ll adapt your style of presentation to the publication you choose.

Delivery of Research

(10-minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) You will translate the most important discoveries from your research essay into an engaging, persuasive oral or media presentation.