Romantic Passion

Cultural Product or Natural/Universal Feelings?

I. Definitions
II. General Comparison of Different Kinds of Love in History
1. Traditional Concepts:      before the Romantics  2. Romantic love & courtly love  3. Victorian love & modern love
III.  Definition of Romantic passion from a sociological perspective
        Where does "Romantic love" come fromWhat is it for?

III. Cultural Expressions of (Romantic) Love:

1.  The Romantic 
& Liebestod (love death)
2. Pre-Raphaelite
3. Modern
4. Contemporary  
* Chinese Lyrics on Romantic love
    --Is romantic passion our innate feelings, an acquired ability, or a product of Western culture?   Does it occur in a close-knit society? 
    --What are the common attributes of romantic love/passion for college students in Taiwan? 
    --Can we distinguish between the romantic love in us and in romance and soap opera? 
*Please leave your messages.
Try to be text- and context- specific.  Beware of generalization.
Definition: General Comparison:

1. Romantic love compared with courtly love, realist and modernist views (from The Nature of Love 3: The Modern World.  Irving Singer.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987)

2. Victorian love and modern love--(from Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience?  Ed. William Jankowiak.  NY: Columbia UP, 1995)

III.  Definition of Romantic passion from a sociological perspective (from Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience?)
  the influence of social structure: "[Some] cultural traditions center the individual emotionally and psychologically in an intricate web of social dependency with others, thereby rechanneling or defusing the possibility and thus intensity of an individual's private emotional experience.  This web of dependency, with its many attendant demands and expectations, in turn undermines the individual's proclivity to fantasize about a lover or fully explore the subjective realm of the erotic.  From these and countless related studies it has often been inferred that the non-Western cultures are, by their very nature, incapable of romantic passion or are too closed off to feelings and desires independent of the social context or customary expectation." (2)
the influence of childhood development:  "[some] theorize that love is not based on the physiology of erotic attraction, the rigors of sexual repression, the power of instutional transformation, or anything innately given.  It is, rather, a learned response from early childhood tha provides the necessary emotional foundation to experience romantic love.  A "love crush" is nothing more than the desire to recapture the warmth and comfort of the early attachment of the child to his or her parents." (2-3)
  "Evolutionary psychologists and anthropologists believe that romantic passion evolved to improve human reproductive strategies and solidify parenting efforts" (3).
[For some existential-oriented psychologists and anthropologies,] "romantic love is not derived from reproductively driven sexual desire but rather springs from the existential yearning for self-transcendence...romantic love is one possible response to the need to experience emotional union with another."

III. Cultural Expressions of (Romantic) Love:
  1. Examples in Romantic Poetry:
  • [common attributes: love and lover idealized, the use of sensuous images bordering on sex, immanence of (or existence of) death; see below]
  • e.g. "She Walks in Beauty" (Byron)

    Literature and other arts continued be dominated by men in the romantic period, and so it is primarily woman as viewed by man that has given us the various images of woman in romantic art.
    These range from the idealized simple, domestic, virtuous girl and mother to the ethereal beauty, inspirer of lofty ideas, to the she devil, temptress or femme fatale who seduces and ruins innocent young men.
    All these types may inspire romantic love, an all-consuming passion that can never be fulfilled (if it is, it usually leads to disillusionment and a new object) and often causes the hero extreme misery or even death. (The Humanities: Cultural Roots and Continuities 4th ed. Vol II.  Mary Witt, et al.  pp. 298-99)

    Liebestod (love-death) means the two lovers' consummation of their love in death or after death.
    e.g.Romeo and JulietWuthering Heights, "Porphyria's Lover" as a one-sided Liebestod, The Sorrow of Young Werther, etc.

    Why is death a consummation or even an intensification of their love?  Avoiding sex, the beauty's aging and becoming ugly and their love's becoming dull and plain? 

    Variations of Romantic Love or Other Expressions of Love
    A Huguenot exhibits three stereotypical characteristics of love in mid-nineteen-century art.  First, it is emphatically narrative.  Its exquisite lovers exchanging intense gazes are posed to emphasize the poingnancy of this particular moment on the eve of a massacre which actually took place in Paris on Aug. 24, 1572, and which promises to end the man's life. 
    Secondly, the danger to love comes from without, ...The implied moral is that love would reign supreme if only the external obstacles of ...could be surmounted.... 
    Thirdly, there is no pictorial significance attaching to "the between," the space between the lovers.  It is, in the language of art criticism, "negative space," incidental to the relationship between the lovers. 
      from The Culture of Love: Victorians to Moderns.
     Left  John Millais  A Huguenot, on St. Bartholomew's Day, Refusing to Shield Himself from Danger by Wearing the Roman Catholic Badge, 1857
    Gustav Klimt
    Gustav Klimt, Love, 1985  "Klimt's positive and deficient love set in a minimally narrative time frame and more exclusively aesthetic space marks a transition between 19th-century story-telling and later, more explicit, renderings of encounter" (54)
    Gustav Klimt, The Kiss, 1908 or 1911 
    Osterreichische Galerie, Vienna 
    Wassily Kandinsky, Between Two, 1934. 
    In this painting the protruding curves of the male and female froms closely approach one another's boundaries, indicating the powerufl attrative and repulsive forces between them. (57-58)
    Edward Munch, Eye in Eye, 1894 
    contrasts sharply with conventional "love-at-first-sight" images popular in the 19th-century (p. 55) 
    Romantic love

    ¡m¯Ú¯×¦©¡n, Sleepless in Seattle, 㺽¤p»¡, etc. 

    realistic view of love, or satire of Romantic love
     ½ÞÀY¥Ö¡Ð¡Ð¡q¤õ¿N­í¡r¡B¡q·R¦p§Ñ±¡¤ô¡r(That's What Love is All about)                                   Äq¬u 
    Taiwanese songs on Romantic love--compiled by Julia Hsieh and her group
    I. Passiveness, II. Realization of Romantic Dreams, III. More understanding after some Twists and Turns,  ¬h·tªá©ú
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    The Nature of Love 3: The Modern World.  Irving Singer.  Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.
    Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience?  Ed. William Jankowiak.  NY: Columbia UP, 1995
    The Humanities: Cultural Roots and Continuities 4th ed. Vol II.  Mary Witt, et al.  pp. 298-99