February theme of the month: Unconventional love

Has Valentine’s Day and its sappy accounts of saccharine romance got you down? Don’t worry–the folks at NYU Press are here to offer alternative accounts of love and relationships!

Michael Cobb takes on the idea of the relationship itself in his work Single, which examines the discourses surrounding “singleness” in film, art, theory, literature, and, through his analysis of HBO’s Big Love, even television. His provocative argument challenges the notion that being in a couple is required (or even desirable) for engaging with society, and offers an alternative perspective on being without a partner. Being single, it appears, might not be so bad after all.

But if you still have relationships on your mind, then you may want to check out David Shumway’s Modern Love, which traces the development of a new language of “intimacy” over the course of the twentieth century. Shumway theorizes that when marriage lost its institutional powers of controlling and distributing property, new conceptions of and ways of talking about love had to be attached to it–all of which can be squarely located in just about every Woody Allen film ever made. Tracing the shift in emphasis (but not mere replacement) from “romance” to “intimacy” through advice columns, self-help books, Hollywood screwball comedies, and a variety of other texts, Shumway offers a meditation on what it means to love in the modern age.

While Shumway offers an account for twentieth-century love, we might wonder: what does love in the twenty-first century look like? In Love and Empire, Felicity Amaya Schaeffer examines the oddities of cybermarriage and internet romance, particularly their roles in the relationship between Latin America and the United States. Tracking the global trajectory of the twenty-first-century commercialization of intimacy, Schaeffer finds Latin American women fashion themselves through the lens of the erotic to transform themselves into ideal citizens of both their home countries and the United States. These stories not only offer us glimpses into the relationships between contemporary individuals, but also a look at the convoluted relationship between Latin America and the United States.

Offering an alternative look at marriage and traditional concepts of love and intimacy is José Esteban Muñoz, who argues in Cruising Utopia that pragmatic, assimilationist concerns such as marriage only put a halt to the radical and future-bound agenda of the LGBTQ community. Through looking to the past and examining works in queer (and not so queer) archives, Muñoz paves a way to the radical and hopeful future, one where the newly-invigorated LGBTQ community can stop being stifled by pragmatic concerns of the present and instead continue on its radically future-bound course.

These works offer a starting point for books, events and articles we will highlight throughout the month. Look forward to updates here on our blog and our Tumblr!

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