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Romance Writing

Lynne Pearce

ISBN: 978-0-745-63004-5 January 2007 Polity 232 Pages


Romance Writing explores the changing nature of both the romance genre and the discourse of romantic love from the seventeenth century to the present day. Indeed, it is one of the first studies to approach romantic love as both genre and discourse in more than sixty years.

Faced with the challenge of writing a cultural history for what is commonly understood to be one of lifes most universal, a-historical and cross-cultural phenomena, Lynne Pearce has invoked the concept of the gift to calculate loves added value at different cultural/historical moments. Building upon those philosophical traditions which have argued for the powerfully transformative nature of romantic love, Pearce shows how in the history of literature lovers have utilized its spark to change not only themselves, but also their worlds, through acts of creativity and heroism. The gift of love ranges from the simple gift of a name in the seventeenth century, through notions of immortality, self-sacrifice and selfhood in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through to the liberating temporal and spatial dislocations of the postmodern age. The opening chapter, The Alchemy of Love, also undertakes an in-depth engagement of the changing nature, and meaning, of romantic love.

Providing a judicious blend of close reading and cultural history, Romance Writing will be essential reading for undergraduate students as well as postgraduates and scholars working in the field, while also offering much of interest to the general reader.



1 Introduction: The Alchemy of Love.

2 Romance before the Eighteenth Century: The Gift of a Name.

3 Courtship Romance: The Gift of Consolation.

4 Gothic Romance: The Gift of Immortality.

5 Wartime Romance: The Gift of Self-Sacrifice.

6 Modern Romance: The Gift of Selfhood.

7 Postmodern Romance: The Gift of the Fourth Dimension.




"Breezy, adventurous and accessible, Romance Writing offers an ambitious cultural history of romantic love, exploring how it articulates with – and sometimes swerves dramatically from – the stories of romance as a genre, of courtship as an institution, and sex, sexuality and desire. En route Lynne Pearce tracks some of our cherished popular clichés to their literary heartlands."

Trev Broughton, University of New York

"In Romance Writing, Lynne Pearce implores us – with remarkable insight and unwavering perception – to reconsider our grand narratives of love. By positioning a new and thoroughgoing cultural history of romance, she succeeds in daring readers to investigate the endlessly seductive and confounding languages of literary love. In so doing, Pearce accomplishes one of criticism's greatest of feats: her book illuminates our minds, while challenging us to ponder the mysteries that live in our hearts."

Kenneth Womack, Penn State Altoona

"Lynne Pearce's Romance Writing spans an extraordinary range, from chivalry to chick-lit, and bravely pits romantic love against an array of its enemies: death, sex, marriage and self-help lifestyles."

Chris Baldick, Goldsmiths College

  • The first comprehensive study of the romance genre for over 50 years.
  • Introduces and examines romantic love in a wide range of texts, from the 17th Century to the present day.
  • By linking the texts with their social and cultural contexts, this is also a history of romantic love and its changing meanings over the past 300 years.
  • Will appeal to a wide student and scholarly readership within the humanities as both an original and cutting edge piece of scholarship and an introduction to a popular genre.