Revolutions of the Heart: Gender, Power, and the Delusions of Love

By Wendy Langford | Go to book overview

3


ANALYSING LOVE

knows that falling in love does not resolve all of life’s dissatisfactions. However, the whole point of romantic love, as we saw in Chapter 1, is that it is a profound and irrational rebellion of the spirit. And as we saw in Chapter 2, the experience involves deep and powerful emotions and subliminal perceptions which, when experienced in relation to a cultural narrative, render this narrative compelling. To ask someone in the grip of such a passion to deny that she is truly ‘in love’, with all that this implies, would be to ask her to crush all hope and even to doubt the reality of her own existence. Yet we cannot afford to abandon the possibility of critical analysis, for it has been suggested that it is precisely the irrational and rebellious nature of romantic love which makes it an effective hiding place for the exercise of power. In order to progress further, then, we need an approach which can embrace the contradictions of love and account for its paradoxical appearance. Love needs to be addressed as both reality and illusion, as both ‘otherworldly’ and yet very much of this world, and as both liberating yet possibly at once constraining. We need to explain how romantic transformation can take place ‘somewhere else’, while at the same time accounting for how the journey there arises upon certain conditions and is imbued with particular cultural and psychological meanings. The account should not deny the ‘subject of love’ her feelings of excitement, well-being and confidence, for they are clearly real enough. It should acknowledge her experience of ‘transcendence’, and the faith it has given her in the possibility of a happier and more meaningful life. But it must also allow for the possibility that the fundamental basis of her feelings and perceptions may not be what it seems and may even, if critics prove correct, be productive of her demise.

Of the few existing attempts to understand romantic love in any depth, psy choanalysis has particular utility in respect of these criteria. For a project which aims to understand how women’s experiences of love might be connected to the reproduction of social power, this might seem a surprising claim. Psychoanalysis remains undeveloped as social theory and the neglect of women’s experience by Freud and many of his followers, along with a persis

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Revolutions of the Heart: Gender, Power, and the Delusions of Love
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - Government by Love 1
  • 2 - Romantic Transformations 23
  • 3 - Analysing Love 42
  • 4 - Everybody’s Mummy 64
  • 5 - The Daughter’s Submission 89
  • 6 - Dialectics of Love 114
  • 7 - Misguided Revolutions 141
  • Appendix 154
  • Bibliography 158
  • Index 164
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