Support the news

History of Romantic Love39:11

This article is more than 18 years old.

Romantic love is as old as humanity itself but has it been mostly a Western phenomenon or a universal one? Is love simply an expression of male chauvinism that puts a woman on a pedestal where she may never compete with a man? If so, is love evolving such that it entails a sense of equality in spirit and in status for both men and women? Professor Richard Landes, medieval historian and Director of the Center for Millennial Studies at Boston University, answered some of these questions.

Poetry is one of the most popular forms of art that has been used to express the emotion of love. In fact, the oldest valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife in 1415. Yet, most of the romantic love poetry we are familiar with today is by men who praise women. Bella English, a writer and columnist for the Boston Globe and an occasional poet, talked about whether there exists poetry in which women praise men.

Some of the earliest expressions of romantic love in Western civilization were troubadours. In these love songs, the expression of love is never consummated. Boston University Professor of English Robert Levine explained if the association of romantic love with sex was implicit in these love songs or if such an association is rather a recent phenomenon.

This program aired on February 11, 2001.

Robin Lubbock Twitter Visual/Social Media
Robin Lubbock produces visual and social media for WBUR.


+Join the discussion

Support the news