Saturday, July 08, 2006

A Celebration of Love

I was at a wedding today, and one of the readings was from 1Corinithians 13.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
It sounded to me like a defence of the romance genre. Obviously that isn't exactly what St Paul had in mind, and the translations of this passage vary, so it could be argued that he's talking about caritas and not eros, and that romances only deal with eros (I'd disagree that that's the only sort of love described in romances, even between the hero and heroine, but that's possibly a topic for another blog entry). I should perhaps also make it clear that I'm not intending to cast slurs on other genres, because there are different types of love; there can be a love of justice, of beauty etc, and different genres fulfill different functions in their readers' lives. But it is the case that romance is the genre that is most associated with love, and which has at its heart the depiction of love stories: 'romance fiction says that love is powerful and important. [...] Result: romance fiction is called "silly fluff." ' (Crusie 1998).

Crusie, of course, is not in agreement with the critics who claim that romance is just 'silly fluff', and neither am I. Romances may not all 'speak in the tongues of angels', and some people would argue that they don't even 'speak in the tongues of men', as they have so few male readers. They may not 'fathom all mysteries and all knowledge' (though some make a good try at exploring a variety of issues), but what they do attempt to do seems to me to very worthwhile: they remind us how essential love is. They state that if I 'have not love, I am nothing'. Now before I upset anyone who's single, I should say that romance isn't just about couples and the love between couples, nor is that the only love depicted or celebrated in romance. Certainly what the hero and heroine feel for each other is central to each romance, but their love, according to Pamela Regis, affects the whole community:
The scene or scenes defining the society establishes the status quo which the heroine and hero must confront in their attempt to court and marry and which, by their union, they symbolically remake. (2003: 31)*
As I mentioned in a previous post, we also see the love that families and friends have for each other, and, as mentioned by J in the comments section of a previous entry, one not infrequently finds children and animals who both give love to, and receive love from, the main adult protagonists.

In Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, for example, it is only as Lord Dain can bring himself to love and accept his son, that he can at last believe that he too is loveable:
the only woman who'd ever cared for him before had abandoned him ... because he was a monster, impossible to love.
But Jessica said that wasn't true.
Dain left the table and walked to the fire. Dominick looked up at his approach. In his son's dark, warily upturned countenance, Dain saw his own: the black troubled eyes ... the hated beak ... the sullen mouth. No, the child was not handsome by any stretch of the imagination [...]
He did not have a sunny disposition, either. Nor did his filthy vocabulary enhance his appeal. He wasn't a pretty child and he certainly wasn't a charming one.
He was just like his father.
And just like his father, he needed someone - anyone - to accept him. Someone to look upon him and touch him with affection. (1995: 339-340)

At the wedding today, adults and children gathered together to celebrate, uphold and witness the love between two people who wanted to make a commitment to each other. I think this genre is one worth celebrating too.

* For the full reference, see the Romance Wiki bibliography.


  1. Well stated!

    And best wishes to the happy couple.

  2. Brava, Laura, brava! I have been lurking withour commenting, but I just had to give a cyber cheer for today's blog.