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.”

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