Love, Desire and Class
General Introduction
A prelude “Love Story”
 What is Romantic Love and what’s
wrong with it?
 Course Outline at a glance; Section I
 Three Traditional Love Poems & one
Contemporary Song
 Reference
 Readings for next week
Love Story
By Andy Williams
Where do I begin to tell a story of how great a love
can be
the sweet love story that is older than the sea
the simple truth about the love she brings to me
Where do I start
With her first hello
she gave a meaning to this empty world of mine
There'd never be another love another time
She came into my life and made the living fine
she fills my heart
she fills my heart with very special things
with angel songs,with wild imaginings
She fills my soul with so much love
that anywhere I go I'm never lonely.
With her along who could be lonely
I reach for her hand
it's always there
How long does it last
Can love be measured by the hours in a day
I have no answers now but this much I can say:
I know I'll need her till the stars all burn away
and she'll be there (underline added)
Is this a poem?
It depends.  Some poetic elements:
repetition, rimes. But what is poetry?
A fine combination of sound (rime, rhythm,
meter, etc.) and sense (figurative language,
irony, personification, etc.)? No.
Shocking us into a new awareness? No.
Instead, it is a straightforward celebration of
a “romantic” love which falls in the tradition
of “Romantic love.”
What is Romantic Love?
What’s wrong with it?
The desire for union or merger;
2) Idealization of the beloved;
3) Exclusivity; (e.g. always, never)
4) Emotional dependency or powerful
concern for the beloved. (Cf. J. 5)
Nothing wrong, but Romantic love is not
“Love.” It is apparently a powerful
feeling that seems to be unique and
eternal, but actually -1)
Romantic love is
A cultural product with a lot of
conventions (or some plot elements);
 e.g. to deal with its transience:
carpe diem (seize the day); liebestod (love
and death)
Part of the tradition of idealized love
(e.g. courtly love, Platonic love, neoPlatonic love, Romantic love).
Romantic love is
Problematic because it is powerful and
seemingly “natural” and thus disguises
realities of inequality, commodification or
the nature of our desire. Sometimes it
(“true love”) can even be turned into
rigid laws to support or justify some
gender oppression.
 Victorian society – pinnacle of Romantic
love, from which S. Freud’s theories
The problems with both the
song and the ideas of R. L.
Both can be deceiving.
The “canonical” love poems are not
exempt from some “ideology” of love.
Course Outline
Traditional Love Poems: New Critical
Reading and Beyond
 Love and Desire: Psychoanalysis
 Love and Bread: Marxism
 Love in Culture: Cultural Studies
Note: we are not limited by this topic.
New Critical Readings and
New Criticism: close reading; practical
criticism; the “Text and Text Only”
approach. Form and content united into
an “organic whole.”
 Beyond:
Discussing the social context(s) it fails to see.
Challenging its underlying beliefs liberal
Selected Love Poems
Shakespeare: Sonnet 130 “My mistress'
eyes are nothing like the sun”
 Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet
John Donne “To his Mistress: Going to
 Leonard Cohen “I’m Your Man”
Sonnet 130
Thesis: Instead of seeing his lover as a
beautiful goddess, the speaker describe his
mistress and define his lover in relative terms
in order to finally confirm his love.
Two kinds of comparison:
Worse – e.g. less red, worse than perfume, less
pleasing than music yet he loves it;
Unlike ( More real) e.g. eyes, hair, walk.
The “truest” -- his “love” and his “language.”
Sonnet 130 -- Context
Seen as a sequence: Sonnet 127 to 152
bitter and wry reflections on the poet’s
sexual entanglement with a woman—who
is, in turn, entangled with the youth at the
expense of Shakespeare’s relations with
both of them.”
Match the sardonic, misogynistic flavour of
the early Jacobean court. . . (Jacob 36)
Courting sonnet
in Romeo and Juliet
Thesis: The youngsters court or stay coy
with misplaced conceits.
 Juliet’s Hands  shrine; Juliet, a saint.
 Romeo: lips = pilgrims  a palmer
(pilgrim) with palms
 Witty twist with “let lips do what hands
do” What? Pray  kiss
Courting sonnet in Romeo and
Juliet -- Context
The play:
Before the sonnet (their first
conversation), Romeo, like Byron in "She
Walks in Beauty," compares Juliet to light or
jewels at night and describes her as "true
Romeo goes to the ball to find his girlfriend
Rosaline, but not Juliet.
2. The film(s)
“To his Mistress: Going to Bed”
Thesis: As the speaker uses witty conceits
to ask the lady to strip herself, the ideology
of platonic love is challenged but not that of
sex as male battle and conquer.
Witty challenge of Platonic love:
Combine the spiritual and sensual, but see
the latter as more important or at least the
same with the former.
Puns with sexual connotations – labour,
standing, “still can stand so nigh”, “hairy
diadems,” “flesh upright”
“To his Mistress: Going to Bed”
3. Spiritual and natural images showing the
sensual as something “better” and “natural”:
-- girdle as heaven’s zone, (body as a far fairer
-- body as flowery meads;
-- souls unbodied = bodies unclothed
-- fools who stop at breast plate or gems
(traditional poets?)
-- innocence = birth clothes
John Donne in Context
Dr. Donne and Jack Donne
Neo-Platonic Love in Renaissance– Its
governing ambiguity: “things and persons in
the world are to be loved only for the sake of a
spiritual beauty that transcends them, and yet
the beautiful cannot be appreciated unless we
love its manifestations in matter (Singer 195.)
Christianity (from being a Catholic to an Anglican
Neo-Ovidian: “artificial and self-conscious in their
defense of sexual pleasures” (Singer 196)
John Donne in Context
e.g. “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” –
unlike “dull-sublunary lovers, separation of
the bodies does not hurt the union of ‘true’
lovers’ souls.
 “The Extasie,” -- implies that love is a
religious experience,
 “To his Mistris Going to Bed” sex is a
religious experience
I’m Your Man: Close Analysis
postmodern parody/collage of traditional and
contemporary images of love and
masculinity (courtly romance, painting,
fairy tales and Valentine )
Courting the Lady
Mannered Courtship  Wolf
Desire Underneath
Love as something opportunist
Christ? Virgin Mary?
Or . . . ?
I’m Your Man -- Context
Canadianism parodied
 Signs of the Canadian: The Group of
Seven, Riding the Timber, Royal
Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and
the maple leaf.
Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience?
Ed. William Jankowiak. Columbia University
Press, 1995.
Nature of Love, Vol. 2: Courtly & Romantic.
Irving Singer. University of Chicago Press,
 A beginner's guide to critical reading : an
anthology of literary texts. Richard Jacobs.
London ; New York : Routledge , 2001.
Readings for next week
Chap 2.
 “Reading
criticism and new criticism”
 EB Browning Sonnet 26 - I lived with
visions for my company
 “Barbara Allen”
 R. Browning “Porphyria’s Lover” and