The object of this course is to analyze narratives of adultery from Shakespeare to the present and to develop a vocabulary for thinking critically about the literary conventions and social values that inform them. Many of the themes (of desire, transgression, suspicion, discovery) at the heart of these stories also lie at the core of many modern narratives. Is there anything special, we will ask, about the case of adultery--once called "a crime which contains within itself all others"? What might these stories teach us about the way we read in general? By supplementing classic literary accounts by Shakespeare, Pushkin, Flaubert, Chekhov, and Proust with films and with critical analyses, we will analyze the possibilities and limitations of the different genres and forms under discussion, including novels, films, short stories, and theatre. What can these forms show us (or not show us)about desire, gender, family and social obligation? Through supplementary readings and class discussions, we will apply a range of critical approaches to place these narratives of adultery in a social and literary context, including formal analyses of narrative and style, feminist criticism, Marxist and sociological analyses of the family, and psychoanalytic understandings of desire and family life.