Don Juan and Casanova: The Art of Seduction in Literature, Music and Film - CP655

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5)







Don Juan and Casanova are archetypes of the male seducer who, in the Western European tradition, stand for different interpretations of excessive passion. Don Juan hunts for virgins, nuns, and other women who are difficult to get (in that they belong to other men). Meticulously, he keeps record of his conquests. Casanova, in turn, was attracted to the easy accessibility of moments of intense pleasure, which, although within potential reach to all, only few knew how to enjoy. While Casanova slept with everyone but took interest in nobody, Don Juan's quest is also motivated by the hidden desire to find a woman that would be his equal.

In this module we shall chart the metamorphoses of these two almost mythical figures since their emergence in seventeenth-century Spain and eighteenth-century Italy to explore the relationship between literature, music, film, and the erotic within different cultural and historical contexts. In our close analyses of plays, novellas, poems, philosophical texts, opera, and film, we will focus on notions of modern individualism in relation to narcissism and solitude. In addition, we shall also engage with theoretical concepts related to speech act theory (J.L. Austin's How to do Things with Words), Judith Butler's thoughts on gender as performance, Sigmund Freud’s observations on sexuality, and Jacques Lacan’s description of ego-constitution.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
Essay (3,000 words) – 80%

Indicative reading

Any edition:

Tirso de Molina: The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest
Molière: Don Juan
Giacomo Casanova: History of my Life (extracts)
E.T.A. Hoffmann: Don Juan
Byron: Don Juan
Alexander Pushkin: The Stone Guest
Arthur Schnitzler: Casanova's Homecoming
Søren Kierkegaard: Either/Or (extracts)
Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Analyse critically a selection of representations of Don Juan and Casanova as archetypes of the male seducer in literature, music, and film;
- Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the gender-historical and wider philosophical questions that are at stake in such representations;
- Demonstrate detailed understanding of what motivates the creation of these archetypes, such as the projection of male/female anxieties concerning sexuality or conflicting relations between individual and society;
- Engage at an advanced critical level with the literary texts, music, and films discussed through close interpretations of these works;
- Demonstrate a profound understanding of key philosophical concepts (modern individualism in relation to narcissism and solitude) through analysis of the figure of the male seducer and his female/male victims and/or opponents;
- Demonstrate systematic knowledge of key theoretical concepts from gender and performance theory, speech act theory, and psychoanalysis.
- Demonstrate a systematic and critical understanding of recent critcism relating to texts, films and music studied on the module.

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