Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis

Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis

Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis

Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis


"A wide-ranging and beautifully dialectical analysis of the modern discourses on love and intimacy. David Shumway overturns some of the usual assumptions about romantic love and, in the process makes original, often surprising observations about literature, movies, pop music, self-help books, and a variety of other texts. Modern Love is a pleasure to read, and it contributes significantly to our understanding of modernity." - James Naremore, Indiana University

"Fascinating and timely." - Intams Review

"An extremely valuable contribution to the history of that supposedly timeless ideal, the intimate relationship." - Elizabeth Freeman, author of The Wedding Complex

"A cultural study of love and marriage in fiction and film rather than a history of recent marriage,Modern Loveilluminates the complexities of an important recent development in American marital ideals." - The Journal of American History

"My ideas of romance came from the movies," said Woody Allen, and it is to the movies- as well as to novels, advice columns, and self-help books- that David Shumway turns for his history of modern love.Modern Loveargues that a crisis in the meaning and experience of marriage emerged when it lost its institutional function of controlling the distribution of property, and instead came to be seen as a locus for feelings of desire, togetherness, and loss. Over the course of the twentieth century, partly in response to this crisis, a new language of love- "intimacy"- emerged, not so much replacing but rather coexisting with the earlier language of "romance."Reading a wide range of texts, from early twentieth-century advice columns and their late twentieth-century antecedent, the relationship self-help book, to Hollywood screwball comedies, and from the "relationship films" of Woody Allen and his successors to contemporary realist novels about marriages, Shumway argues that the kinds of stories the culture has told itself have changed. Part layperson's history of marriage and romance, part meditation on intimacy itself,Modern Lovewill be both amusing and interesting to almost anyone who thinks about relationships (and who doesn't?).


Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date,
Hearts full of passion,
Jealousy and Hate.
Woman needs Man
And man must have his mate,
That no one can deny.

—“As Time Goes By,” Herman Hupfield (1931)

I can change, I swear, oh,
See what you can do.

—“You're a Big Girl Now,” Bob Dylan (1974)

The songs quoted above both deal with love and what we have come to call “relationships,” a term that would not have had the same meaning for Herman Hupfield in 1931. We easily recognize “As Time Goes By” as a love song—it is one of the most well-known love songs because of its featured role in the film Casablanca. But we might not be so quick to call Bob Dylan's “You're a Big Girl Now” a love song even though it tells the story of a failed relationship. The lyrics quoted differ in one obvious way: one set is about things staying the same, while the other talks of change. The songs also differ in ways that these brief quotations don't clearly illustrate. “As Time Goes By” deals in generalities. It claims to be describing how love is, not just always, but for everyone. “You're a Big Girl Now” is from the album Blood on the Tracks, which according to most commentators was a response to the failure of Dylan's marriage. Most of the songs on the album are narratives about particular experiences of love. Moreover, the singer seems to be groping . . .

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