Guardian article with mini reviews

Guardian article with mini reviews

New books by Robin Dunbar, Jean-Claude Kaufmann and Alain Badiou are mentioned in this piece by Stuart Jeffries:

Is online dating destroying love?

Online dating is now one of the most common ways to start a relationship. But is it fulfilling our dreams – or shattering our cherished ideal of romance?


New Histories of Love and Romance, c.1880-1960

This event is organised by our contributor Tim Jones:

“New Histories of Love and Romance, c.1880-1960
25 May 2012
University of Glamorgan, Cardiff

Unlike the broader histories of emotions and of sexuality, scholarship on the history of love is still at a nascent stage. Evolutionary and psychoanalytic models frequently posit romantic love as universal and transhistorical. And yet there is an acknowledgment within most histories of the ‘long twentieth century’ that the institutions often associated with love (such as marriage and family life) as well as sexual mores and social and cultural manifestations have profoundly shifted during the period. From this starting point, we tend to concur with Stevi Jackson’s contention that ‘Love cannot be treated as if it has an existence independent of the social and cultural context within which it is experienced.’ As recent scholarship in the history of ideas has begun to show, the close of the nineteenth century saw the birth of radical new understandings of love which foregrounded mutual affection and pleasure. Social histories have begun to explore how romance and courtship was performed and experienced in different contexts, sometimes confirming, sometimes resisting received characterisations of modern love. And new histories of the single life, as framed within familial bonds or considered through the lens of (sometimes celibate) religious or friendship relationships, seem to challenge existing historical approaches to romance which narrowly concentrate on emerging models of ‘companionate marriage’ and sexual activity.
In this symposium we want to bring together the leading scholars in this emergent field to promote further research into the power, knowledge and pleasure of love in the early twentieth century. How ‘modern’ was love in this period? Was it oppressive or liberating for women? For men? How influential were new psychological understandings of sexuality in framing romance? How much continuity was there in this period with Victorian affection? How much did economic, class, taste and regional factors condition desire and feeling? Did changes in sentiment allow for new expressions of non-heteronormative romance? And how did newer cultural forms for the articulation and expression of love respond to, or precipitate these changes? In asking these questions we hope to evince a richer picture of the forms of love and romance in modern Britain before the sexual revolution.

Confirmed speakers include Lynne Pearce, Barbara Caine, Marcus Collins and Claire Langhamer.

There is no conference fee, but registration is essential because places are limited. Please email Tim Jones ( to register before 11 May.”

York conference: Popular Romance

“The Fourth Annual International Conference on Popular Romance Studies:
The Pleasures of Romance

York, United Kingdom
27-29 September, 2012

Pleasure is continually disappointed, reduced, deflated, in favor of strong, noble values:
Truth, Death, Progress, Struggle, Joy, etc. Its victorious rival is Desire:
we are always being told about Desire, never about Pleasure.
Roland Barthes

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
Oscar Wilde

This conference asks one large question: What is the place of pleasure in popular romance? Popular romance—whether romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, fan fiction, advertisements, etc.—has long been both consumed and derided because of the pleasures they impart: pleasures of sentiment, pathos, comfort, arousal, satisfaction, identification. This conference will consider “pleasure” in popular romance texts and popular romance studies:

  • Pleasure and/vs. Shame
  • Sexual pleasure
  • The pleasures of consumption
  • The pleasure of scorn of romantic texts
  • Pleasures of/in romantic texts
  • Love as pleasure
  • The pleasure of the sentimental
  • The pleasure of melodrama
  • The pleasure of romance: giving and receiving
  • Love as pain/pain as love: the pleasures of BDSM
  • The pleasure of the bittersweet and tragic love stories
  • The rhetoric of pleasure
  • Representations of the body in pleasure
  • Pleasures of identification
  • Pleasure and power
  • Pleasure and relaxation (luxe, calme, et volupté)
  • The devaluation of pleasure
  • Paranormal pleasures / Pleasure and/in/of the paranormal
  • Pleasure of the consumer / Pleasure in consuming
  • The pleasure of the gaze

The conference asks the following questions:

  1. What is pleasure? To speak about pleasure is to work with a large concept and thus we must work toward defining pleasure and also how it relates specifically to popular romance. What theoretical avenues can we use to understand pleasure?
  2. How is pleasure represented in popular romance? How and why do characters experience pleasure? How is the characters’ pleasure connected with romantic love? How is the experience of pleasure in the text connected with the pleasure of consuming and/or viewing the text?
  3. What are the pleasures of the “text,” whether visual, cinematic, literary? If romance novels, romantic films, soap operas, etc., are “pleasurable,” where then does pleasure reside within the “text”? One might consider how the text itself describes the pleasure of the romantic experience and how textual characters experience pleasure in relation to romance.
  4. What are the pleasures of consuming a romantic text? How adequate are existing theoretical models, and what new research is available—from any field—that we might bring to bear on this question?
  5. How do we theorize the pleasure of viewing and being viewed? There is much to be said about scopophilia, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and hiding in popular romance, but how do we as consumers of popular romance understand and consider these experiences? What are the ethical and moral problems involved in consuming the pleasure of others through the texts of popular romance? How do we account for the differences between being seen and seeing?
  6. Who are the producers of the pleasurable romantic text? What creative industries produce romantic texts: film studios, television networks, advertising agencies, authors, publishers? How do they consider the pleasure of the consumer in their production of the text?

These are just some of the possible themes and questions that might be attended to by presenters. We welcome papers that consider popular romance in its many varied forms: the literary, the cinematic, and the visual. Additionally, papers that consider the “popular” in all time periods are especially welcome.

Please submit your proposals for individual papers, full panels, roundtables, interviews, or innovative presentations for peer-review consideration to by May 1, 2012.

Depending on funding, travel grants may be available for presenters.”

A new book by one of our collaborators: Eva Illouz – Why Love Hurts

Book – Eva Illouz – Why Love Hurts.

(ISBN 9780745661520)

“Few of us have been spared the agonies of intimate relationships. They come in many shapes: loving a man or a woman who will not commit to us, being heartbroken when we’re abandoned by a lover, engaging in Sisyphean internet searches, coming back lonely from bars, parties, or blind dates, feeling bored in a relationship that is so much less than we had envisaged – these are only some of the ways in which the search for love is a difficult and often painful experience.

Despite the widespread and almost collective character of these experiences, our culture insists they are the result of faulty or insufficiently mature psyches. For many, the Freudian idea that the family designs the pattern of an individual’s erotic career has been the main explanation for why and how we fail to find or sustain love. Psychoanalysis and popular psychology have succeeded spectacularly in convincing us that individuals bear responsibility for the misery of their romantic and erotic lives. The purpose of this book is to change our way of thinking about what is wrong in modern relationships. The problem is not dysfunctional childhoods or insufficiently self-aware psyches, but rather the institutional forces shaping how we love.

The argument of this book is that the modern romantic experience is shaped by a fundamental transformation in the ecology and architecture of romantic choice. The samples from which men and women choose a partner, the modes of evaluating prospective partners, the very importance of choice and autonomy and what people imagine to be the spectrum of their choices: all these aspects of choice have transformed the very core of the will, how we want a partner, the sense of worth bestowed by relationships, and the organization of desire.

This book does to love what Marx did to commodities: it shows that it is shaped by social relations and institutions and that it circulates in a marketplace of unequal actors.”