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Romance is the expressive and pleasurable feeling from an emotional attraction towards another person associated with love.
In the context of romantic love relationships, romance usually implies an expression of one's strong romantic love, or one's deep and strong emotional desires to connect with another person intimately.
During the initial stages of a romantic relationship, there is more often more emphasis on emotions—especially those of love, intimacy, compassion, appreciation, and affinity—rather than physical intimacy.
Within an established relationship, romantic love can be defined as a freeing or optimizing of intimacy in a particularly luxurious manner (or the opposite as in the "natural"), or perhaps in greater spirituality, irony, or peril to the relationship.
In culture, arranged marriages and betrothals are customs that may conflict with romance due to the nature of the arrangement. It is possible, however, that strong romance and love can exist between the partners in an arranged marriage.
Historians believe that the actual English word "romance" developed from a vernacular dialect within the French language meaning "verse narrative"—referring to the style of speech, writing, and artistic talents within elite classes. The word was originally an adverb of the Latin origin "Romanicus," meaning "of the Roman style." The connecting notion is that European medieval vernacular tales were usually about chivalric adventure, not combining the idea of love until late into the seventeenth century.
The word "romance" has also developed with other meanings in other languages such as the early nineteenth century Spanish and Italian definitions of "adventurous" and "passionate", sometimes combining the idea of "love affair" or "idealistic quality."
Anthropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss show that there were complex forms of courtship in ancient as well as contemporary primitive societies. There may not be evidence, however, that members of such societies formed loving relationships distinct from their established customs in a way that would parallel modern romance.
Before the 18th century, as now, there were many marriages that were not arranged – having risen out of more or less spontaneous relationships. After the 18th century, illicit relationships took on a more independent role. In bourgeois marriage, illicitness may have become more formidable and likely to cause tension. In Ladies of the Leisure Class, Rutgers University professor Bonnie G. Smith depicts courtship and marriage rituals that may be viewed as oppressive to modern people. She writes "When the young women of the Nord married, they did so without illusions of love and romance. They acted within a framework of concern for the reproduction of bloodlines according to financial, professional, and sometimes political interests." Subsequent sexual revolution has lessened the conflicts arising out of liberalism, but not eliminated them.
Anthony Giddens, in his book The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Society, states that romantic love introduced the idea of a narrative into an individual's life. He adds that telling a story was one of the meanings of romance. According to Giddens, the rise of romantic love more or less coincided with the emergence of the novel. It was then that romantic love, associated with freedom and therefore the ideals of romantic love, created the ties between freedom and self-realization.
David R. Shumway, in his book Romance, Intimacy, and The Marriage Crisis, states that the discourse of intimacy emerged in the last third of the 20th century and that this discourse claimed to be able to explain how marriage and other relationships worked. For the discourse of intimacy emotional closeness was much more important than passion. This does not mean by any means that intimacy is to replace romance. On the contrary, intimacy and romance coexist.
The 21st century has seen the growth of globalization and people now live in a world of transformations that affect almost every aspect of our lives, and love has not been the exception. One example of the changes experienced in relationships was explored by Giddens regarding homosexual relationships. According to Giddens since homosexuals were not able to marry they were forced to pioneer more open and negotiated relationships. This kind of relationships then permeated the heterosexual population.
Shumway also states that together with the growth of capitalism the older social relations dissolved, including marriage. Marriage meaning for women changed as they had more socially acceptable alternatives and were less willing to accept unhappy relations and, therefore, divorce rates severely increased.
The discourse of romance continues to exist today together with intimacy. Shumway states that on the one hand, romance is the part that offers adventure and intense emotions while offering the possibility to find the perfect mate. On the other hand, intimacy offers deep communication, friendship, and long lasting sharing.
The conception of romantic love was popularized in Western culture by the concept of courtly love. Chevaliers, or knights in the Middle Ages, engaged in what were usually non-physical and non-marital relationships with women of nobility of whom they served. These relations were highly elaborate and ritualized in a complexity that was steeped in a framework of tradition, which stemmed from theories of etiquette derived out of chivalry as a moral code of conduct.
Courtly love and the notion of domnei were often the subjects of troubadours, and could be typically found in artistic endeavors such as lyrical narratives and poetic prose of the time. Since marriage was commonly nothing more than a formal arrangement, courtly love sometimes permitted expressions of emotional closeness which may have been lacking from the union between husband and wife. In terms of courtly love, "lovers" did not necessarily refer to those engaging in sexual acts, but rather, to the act of caring and to emotional intimacy.
The bond between a knight and his Lady, or the woman of typically high stature of whom he served, may have escalated psychologically but seldom ever physically. For knighthood during the Middle Ages, the intrinsic importance of a code of conduct was in large part as a value system of rules codified as a guide to aid a knight in his capacity as champion of the downtrodden, but especially in his service to the Lord.
In the context of dutiful service to a woman of high social standing, ethics designated as a code were effectively established as an institution to provide a firm moral foundation by which to combat the idea that unfit attentions and affections were to ever be tolerated as "a secret game of trysts" behind closed doors. Therefore, a knight trained in the substance of "chivalry" was instructed, with especial emphasis, to serve a lady most honorably, with purity of heart and mind. To that end, he committed himself to the welfare of both Lord and Lady with unwavering discipline and devotion, while at the same time, presuming to uphold core principles set forth in the code by the religion by which he followed.
Religious meditations upon the Virgin Mary were partially responsible for the development of chivalry as an ethic and lifestyle: the concept of the honor of a lady and knightly devotion to her, coupled with an obligatory respect for all women, factored prominently as central to the very identity of medieval knighthood. As knights were increasingly emulated, eventual changes were reflected in the inner-workings of feudal society. Members of the aristocracy were schooled in the principles of chivalry, which facilitated important changes in attitudes regarding the value of women.
Behaviorally, the manner in which a knight was to regard himself towards a lady, was with a transcendence of premeditated thought; his virtue ingrained within his character. A chevalier was to conduct himself always graciously, bestowing upon her the utmost courtesy and attentiveness. He was to echo shades of this to all women, regardless of class, age, or status. Over time, the concept of chivalry and the notion of the courtly gentleman became synonymous with the ideal of how love and romance should exist between the sexes. Through the timeless popularization in art and literature of tales of knights and princesses, kings and queens, a formative and long standing (sub)consciousness helped to shape relationships between men and women.
De amore or The Art of Courtly Love, as it is known in English, was written in the 12th century. The text is widely misread as permissive of extramarital affairs. However, it is useful to differentiate the physical from without: romantic love as separate and apart from courtly love when interpreting such topics as: "Marriage is no real excuse for not loving", "He who is not jealous cannot love", "No one can be bound by a double love", and "When made public love rarely endures".
Some believe that romantic love evolved independently in multiple cultures. For example, in an article presented by Henry Grunebaum, he argues "therapists mistakenly believe that romantic love is a phenomenon unique to Western cultures and first expressed by the troubadours of the Middle Ages."
The more current and Western traditional terminology meaning "court as lover" or the general idea of "romantic love" is believed to have originated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, primarily from that of the French culture. This idea is what has spurred the connection between the words "romantic" and "lover," thus coining English phrases for romantic love such as "loving like the Romans do." The precise origins of such a connection are unknown, however. Although the word "romance" or the equivalents thereof may not have the same connotation in other cultures, the general idea of "romantic love" appears to have crossed cultures and been accepted as a concept at one point in time or another.
Romantic love is contrasted with platonic love which in all usages precludes sexual relations, yet only in the modern usage does it take on a fully asexual sense, rather than the classical sense in which sexual drives are sublimated. Sublimation tends to be forgotten in casual thought about love aside from its emergence in psychoanalysis and Nietzsche.
Unrequited love can be romantic in different ways: comic, tragic, or in the sense that sublimation itself is comparable to romance, where the spirituality of both art and egalitarian ideals is combined with strong character and emotions. Unrequited love is typical of the period of romanticism, but the term is distinct from any romance that might arise within it.
Romantic love may also be classified according to two categories, "popular romance" and "divine or spiritual" romance:
Greek philosophers and authors have had many theories of love.
Some of these theories are presented in Plato's Symposium. Six Athenian friends, including Socrates, drink wine and each give a speech praising the deity Eros. When his turn comes, Aristophanes says in his mythical speech that sexual partners seek each other because they are descended from beings with spherical torsos, two sets of human limbs, genitalia on each side, and two faces back to back. Their three forms included the three permutations of pairs of gender (i.e. one masculine and masculine, another feminine and feminine, and the third masculine and feminine) and they were split by the gods to thwart the creatures' assault on heaven, recapitulated, according to the comic playwright, in other myths such as the Aloadae.
This story is relevant to modern romance partly because of the image of reciprocity it shows between the sexes. In the final speech before Alcibiades arrives, Socrates gives his encomium of love and desire as a lack of being, namely, the being or form of beauty.
British writer Iain King has tried to establish 'rules for romance' which are applicable across most cultures. He concluded on six rules, including:
Though there are many theories of romantic love such as that of Robert Sternberg in which it is merely a mean combining liking and sexual desire, the major theories involve far more insight. For most of the 20th century, Freud's theory of the family drama dominated theories of romance and sexual relationships. This has given rise to a few counter-theories. Theorists like Deleuze counter Freud and Jacques Lacan by attempting to return to a more naturalistic philosophy:
Girard, in any case, downplays romance's individuality in favor of jealousy and the love triangle, arguing that romantic attraction arises primarily in the observed attraction between two others. A natural objection is that this is circular reasoning, but Girard means that a small measure of attraction reaches a critical point insofar as it is caught up in mimesis. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, As You Like It, and The Winter's Tale are the best known examples of competitive-induced romance.
Girard's theory of mimetic desire is controversial because of its alleged sexism. This view has to some extent supplanted its predecessor, Freudian Oedipal theory. It may find some spurious support in the supposed attraction of women to aggressive men. As a technique of attraction, often combined with irony, it is sometimes advised that one feign toughness and disinterest, but it can be a trivial or crude idea to promulgate to men, and it is not given with much understanding of mimetic desire in mind. Instead, cultivating a spirit of self-sacrifice, coupled with an attitude of appreciation or contemplation, directed towards the other of one's attractions, constitutes the ideals of what we consider to be true romantic love. Mimesis is always the desire to possess, in renouncing it we offer ourselves as a sacrificial gift to the other.
Though the centrality of rivalry is not itself a cynical view, it does emphasize the mechanical in love relations. In that sense, it does resonate with capitalism and cynicism native to post-modernity. Romance in this context leans more on fashion and irony, though these were important for it in less emancipated times. Sexual revolutions have brought change to these areas. Wit or irony therefore ecompass an instability of romance that is not entirely new but has a more central social role, fine-tuned to certain modern peculiarities and subversion originating in various social revolutions, culminating mostly in the 1960s.
The process of courtship also contributed to Arthur Schopenhauer's pessimism, despite his own romantic success, and he argued that to be rid of the challenge of courtship would drive people to suicide with boredom. Schopenhauer theorized that individuals seek partners who share certain interests and tastes, while at the same time looking for a "complement" or completing of themselves in a partner, as in the cliché that "opposites attract", but with the added consideration that both partners manifest this attraction for the sake of the species:
"But what ultimately draws two individuals of different sex exclusively to each other with such power is the will-to-live which manifests itself in the whole species, and here anticipates, in the individual that these two can produce, an objectification of its true nature corresponding to its aims." --World as Will and Representation, Volume 2, Chapter XLIV
Later modern philosophers such as La Rochefoucauld, David Hume and Jean-Jacques Rousseau also focused on morality, but desire was central to French thought and Hume himself tended to adopt a French worldview and temperament. Desire in this milieu meant a very general idea termed "the passions," and this general interest was distinct from the contemporary idea of "passionate" now equated with "romantic." Love was a central topic again in the subsequent movement of Romanticism, which focused on such things as absorption in nature and the absolute, as well as platonic and unrequited love in German philosophy and literature.
Philosophers and authors interested in the nature of love, which may not have been mentioned in this article are Jane Austen, Stendhal, Schopenhauer, George Meredith, Proust, D. H. Lawrence, Freud, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Hemingway, Henry Miller, Deleuze, Alan Soble and Ayn Rand.
In the following excerpt, from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Romeo, in saying "all combined, save what thou must combine By holy marriage" implies that it is not marriage with Juliet that he seeks but simply to be joined with her romantically. "I pray That thou consent to marry us" implies that the marriage means the removal of the social obstacle between the two opposing families, not that marriage is sought by Romeo with Juliet for any other particular reason, as adding to their love or giving it any more meaning.
"Then plainly know my heart's dear love is set On the fair daughter of rich Capulet: As mine on hers, so hers is set on mine; And all combined, save what thou must combine By holy marriage: when and where and how We met, we woo'd and made exchange of vow, I'll tell thee as we pass; but this I pray, That thou consent to marry us to-day." --Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene III
Shakespeare and Søren Kierkegaard share a similar viewpoint that marriage and romance are not harmoniously in tune with each other. In Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, for example, "...there has not been, nor is there at this point, any display of affection between Isabella and the Duke, if by affection we mean something concerned with sexual attraction. The two at the end of the play love each other as they love virtue." Isabella needs love, and she may reject marriage with the Duke because he seeks to beget an heir with her for her virtues, and she is not happy with the limited kind of love that implies.
Shakespeare argues that marriage, because of its purity, simply cannot incorporate romance. The extramarital nature of romance is also clarified by John Updike in his novel Gertrude and Claudius, as well as by Hamlet. This same supposition of romance is also found in the film Braveheart or rather apparent in the example of Isabella of France's life.
Romance raises questions of emotivism (or in a more pejorative sense, nihilism) such as whether spiritual attraction, of the world, might not actually rise above or distinguish itself from that of the body or aesthetic sensibility.
While Buddha taught a philosophy of compassion and love, still in his philosophy of anatman or non-self spiritual appearances are of a piece with the world and essentially empty. The contradiction between compassion and anatman seems to be a part of Buddhism. In that case a seemingly negative insight can result in very different overall views, for example if one compares Buddha and Shakespeare with Friedrich Nietzsche.
Many theorists attempt to analyze the process of romantic love.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher, in her book "Why We Love,"  uses brain scans to show that love is the product of a chemical reaction in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine, among other chemicals, are responsible for excitement and bliss in humans as well as non-human animals.
Fisher concludes that these reactions have a genetic basis, and therefore love is a natural drive as powerful as hunger.
In his book "What Women Want, What Men Want,", anthropologist John Townsend takes the genetic basis of love one step further by identifying how the sexes are different in their predispositions.
Townsend's compilation of various research projects concludes that men are susceptible to youth and beauty, whereas women are susceptible to status and security. These differences are part of a natural selection process where males seek many healthy women of childbearing age which will mother offspring, whereas women seek men who are willing and able to take care of them and their children.
Other researchers have focused on opposing forces in human love.
Psychologist Karen Horney, M.D., in her article "The Problem of the Monogamous Ideal,"  indicates that the overestimation of love leads to disillusionment; the desire to possess the partner results in the partner wanting to escape; and the taboos against sex result in non-fulfillment. Disillusionment plus the desire to escape plus non-fulfillment result in a secret hostility, which causes the other partner to feel alienated. Secret hostility in one and secret alienation in the other cause the partners to secretly hate each other. This secret hate often leads one or the other or both to seek love objects outside the marriage or relationship.
Psychologist Harold Bessell, Ph.D, in his book "The Love Test,"  reconciles the opposing forces noted by the above researchers and shows that there are two factors that determine the quality of a relationship.
Bessell proposes that people are drawn together by a force which he calls "romantic attraction," which is a combination of genetic and cultural factors. This force may be weak or strong and may be felt to different degrees by each of the two love partners. The other factor is "emotional maturity," which is the degree to which a person is capable of providing good treatment in a love relationship. It can thus be said that an immature person is more likely to overestimate love, become disillusioned, and have an affair whereas a mature person is more likely to see the relationship in realistic terms and act constructively to work out problems.
Romantic love in the abstract sense of the term, is traditionally referred to as involving a mix of emotional and sexual desire for another as a person. However, Lisa M. Diamond, a University of Utah psychology professor, proposes that sexual desire and romantic love are functionally independent and that romantic love is not intrinsically oriented to same-gender or other-gender partners. She also proposes that the links between love and desire are bidirectional as opposed to unilateral. Furthermore, Diamond does not state that one's sex has priority over another sex (a male or female) in romantic love because her theory suggests it is as possible for someone who is homosexual to fall in love with someone of the other gender as for someone who is heterosexual to fall in love with someone of the same gender.
Martie Haselton, a psychologist at UCLA, considers romantic love a "commitment device", or mechanism that encourages two humans to form a lasting bond. She has explored the evolutionary rationale that has shaped modern romantic love and has concluded that long-lasting relationships are helpful to ensure that children reach reproductive age and are fed and cared for by two parents. Haselton and her colleagues have found evidence in their experiments that suggest love's adaptation. The first part of the experiments consists of having people think about how much they love someone and then suppress thoughts of other attractive people. In the second part of the experiment the same people are asked to think about how much they sexually desire those same partners and then try to suppress thoughts about others. The results showed that love is more efficient in pushing out those rivals than sex.
Research by the University of Pavia suggests that romantic love lasts for about a year, and then it is replaced by a more stable form of love called companionate love. In companionate love, changes occur from the early stage of love to when the relationship becomes more established and romantic feelings seem to end. However research done at Stony Brook University in New York suggests that some couples keep romantic feelings alive for much longer.
The "tragic" contradiction between romance and society is most forcibly portrayed in literature, in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, in Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The female protagonists in such stories are driven to suicide as if dying for a cause of freedom from various oppressions of marriage.
Even after sexual revolutions, on the other hand, to the extent that it does not lead to procreation (or child-rearing, as it also might exist in same-sex marriage), romance remains peripheral though it may have virtues in the relief of stress, as a source of inspiration or adventure, or in development and the strengthening of certain social relations. It is difficult to imagine the tragic heroines, however, as having such practical considerations in mind.
Romance can also be tragic in its conflict with society. The Tolstoy family focuses on the romantic limitations of marriage, and Anna Karenina prefers death to being married to her fiancé, however this is because she is tired of waiting and being hidden away from public, when her fiance makes failed attempts to get his mother's approval of the marriage. Even being aristocrats did not make them both free, as the society was nevertheless equally biding for all. Furthermore, in the speech about marriage that is given in Kierkegaard's Either/Or, Kierkegaard attempts to show that it is because marriage is lacking in passion fundamentally, that the nature of marriage, unlike romance, is explainable by a man who has experience of neither marriage nor love.
Reciprocity of the sexes appears in the ancient world primarily in myth where it is in fact often the subject of tragedy, for example in the myths of Theseus and Atalanta. Noteworthy female freedom or power was an exception rather than the rule, though this is a matter of speculation and debate.
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