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Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture



Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture

Catherine Belsey

ISBN: 978-0-631-16814-0 December 1994 Wiley-Blackwell 244 Pages


In the light of poststructuralist theory, and with reference to the work of Lacan and Derrida in particular, Catherine Belsey argues that fiction - including poetry, drama and film - is paradoxically the most serious location of writing about desire in Western cultura. Beginning with the celebration of true love in contemporary popular romance, and the reluctant scepticism of postmodern novels, she goes on to explore past representation of passion by Chretien de Troyes, Malory, Spenser, Donne, Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, Tennyson and Bram Stoker. Belsey also discusses the role of desire in the utopian writings of Plato, More and William Morris, as well as its treatment by a range of speculative feminists, from Charlotte perkins Gilman to Marge Piercy.


Part I: Desire Now:.

1. Prologue: Writing About Desire.

2. Reading Love Stories.

3. Desire in Theory: Freud, Lacan, Derrida.

4. Postmodern Love.

Part II: Desire at Other Times:.

5. Adultery in King Arthur's Court.

6. John Donne's Worlds of Desire.

7. Demon Lovers.

8. Futures: Desire and Utopia.



"A book that is pointed, illuminating and beautifully written ... Belsey pursues her topic through western culture with a quickness and subtlety that seems equal to the elusive twists and turns of desire itself." THES

"Her account is a ripping yarn in its own right. Such writing contributes directly to what Morris liked to call the 'education of desire': the vital task of teaching us not only to contest and resist what exists, but how to desire, and how to expand the scope of what we might desire instead. Thanks to Catherine Belsey's splendid book, that task no longer looks quite so tough." Kiernan Ryan, University of Cambridge

"A superb account of desire in popular and canonical literature, as Belsey conclusively demonstrates, desire itself is not only operative in sexual and romantic fantasies. It is operative everywhere. Belsey's book should be required reading for writers of romance novels." Harriet Hawkins, Critical Survey

"Both unsettling and strangely moving. By tracing the constraints and resistances of desire in their historical discontinuity, Belsey proposes to provide desire with a history." Margaret Bridges, The European English Messenger

* Accessible and fascinating for the student and general reader alike.
* Covers the whole spectrum of romance from Mills and Boon and Bram Stoker to Keats, John Donne and Plato.