When writing her 2010 article for the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Catherine Roach took as her
jumping off point [...] Robert Polhemus’s powerful study of nineteenth-century British novels of love and romance, Erotic Faith: Being in Love from Jane Austen to D.H. Lawrence (1990). In his analysis of these novels that stand as high literary precursors to twentieth-century popular romance fiction, his key concept of “erotic faith” provides a reading of the emotional dynamic that the romance narrative then turns into story. Erotic faith, he writes, is “an emotional conviction, ultimately religious in nature, that meaning, value, hope, and even transcendence can be found through love—erotically focused love” (1). Erotic faith is the belief “that people complete themselves and fulfill their destinies only with another … that in the quest for lasting love and the experience of being in love men and women find their real worth and character” (27). John Keats, for example, in a recent movie dramatization, proclaims, “There is a holiness to the heart’s affection” (Bright Star 2009). Polhemus’s point is that we have faith in love, a reverence for it. Starting in the late eighteenth century with the growth of secularism springing from the Enlightenment, in the art and in the marriages of western Europe and North America, people increasingly fell in love with the idea of being in love. This faith in love has become a new form of faith, to “augment or substitute for orthodox religious visions” (4), but with such close psychological functionality between the two forms of faith that “religious feeling and eroticism run close together” (10) and “love and theology may be surrogates for each other” (19).I was reminded of this while reading Jo Beverley's The Stanforth Secrets:
"Do you know how dreadful it is, my darling, to lie in my bed at night and know you are so close? A few steps to heaven. It is sacrilegious to ignore what we have here."-------
[...] "That is a highly irreligious statement."
He kissed the tip of her nose. "You are my religion, my goddess."
Chloe used all her willpower. "Profanity too," she said, moving out of his arms.
[...] "Not in my religion," he said lightly [...]. "There, the only sin is denial of love." (255-56)
- Beverley, Jo. The Stanforth Secrets. Waterville, Maine: Thorndike, 2011.
- Roach, Catherine. "Getting a Good Man to Love: Popular Romance Fiction and the Problem of Patriarchy." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 1.1 (2010).