[-empyre-] love on -empyre-, forwarded by Edgar Landgraf

Edgar Landgraf elandgr at bgsu.edu
Thu Oct 9 03:58:58 EST 2008

Hi S.

It was not a deliberate avoidance, but also not accidental, but resulted from three conscious decisions: 1) to look at literary rather than philosophical texts; 2) to look at the 18th century where we can witness pronounced changes in the semantics of love, and where, I hoped to show, important parameters of our modern understanding of love emerge; and 3) to chose a methodology (contemporary systems theory), that in its epistemology is socio- rather than anthropocentric. This invites a radically historical look at love, ask us to understand how we understand and experience love as a societal, cultural, and medial construction rather than as an expression of some inner human truth.

I assume you expected a move to existentialism because of the word "authenticity." In my article, of course, I argue that "authenticity" is not only a concept developed in the context of particular bourgeois value assertions against aristocratic models of love, but also presents a highly problematic category, one that always runs up against the paradox of incommunicability: in a nutshell, that each assertion of authenticity needs to draw on the in-authentic medium of communication and thus always already undermines itself.
It might be interesting, of course, to take this problem forward and see how it plays out in Kierkegaard and later existentialist writers. Any suggestions?


On 10/6/08 5:33 PM, "sdv at krokodile.co.uk" <sdv at krokodile.co.uk> wrote:


When I began to read this I thought, ah he's going to refer to
Kierkegaard's work on love but you didn't jumping forward instead to
Nikolas Luhmann, Is the avoidence of the existential and
phenomeonlogical line which is surely currently resting in Jean-Luc
Marion's rather nice text "The Erotic Phenomenon"...is this avoidence
deliberate or accidental ?

In other words why this line of thought and not some other ? Why in Owen
Ware's brief note is Barthes quoted and not (for example) Kristeva's
much more interesting book 'Tales of Love', why that particular set of
discourses ?

As for the "...poetry is endangered, if not extinct..." what evidence to
support this claim which plainly has not happened...

Nicholas Ruiz III wrote:
> forwarded by guest contributor Edgar Landgraf:
> In my German Quarterly essay "Romantic Love and the
> Enlightenment: From Gallantry and Seduction to
> Authenticity and Self-Validation," I looked at changes
> in the semantics of love in the eighteenth century as
> recorded by epistolary novels, the bourgeois tragedy
> and finally by Goethe's The Sufferings of Young
> Werther. These literary works demonize the notions of
> love typical for the aristocratic society of the
> seventeenth and eighteenth centuries which conceived
> of love in highly formulized, playful, rhetorically
> defined terms, as the art of gallantry and seduction.
> This paradigm is replaced with a new emphasis on
> authenticity and self-validation which sees in love no
> longer a social game of sorts that is played and
> enjoyed as many other things in life, but rather links
> love to the semantics of individuality: rather than
> being merely a skill and an enjoyment, love now
> fundamentally comes to define who a person is and how
> he or she relates to him- or herself. This shift, in
> essence, takes place in two steps. The epistolary
> novels of the mid-eighteenth century and the bourgeois
> tragedy still frame the argument in terms of moral
> codes and familial constellations, supporting the
> transition from, as Friedrich Kittler put it, the
> family of generations to the family of procreation
> that links love to marriage. In this respect, love
> becomes important for the life especially of young
> bourgeois daughters whose existence is cast to depend
> on finding love, marriage, and a home away from the
> home of their fathers (interesting here, of course,
> how much more starkly gender differences are
> implemented and the possibilities, roles, and options
> for women are reduced in the Enlightenment as opposed
> to pre-modern aristocratic society). Sturm und Drang
> as well as Romantic literature (in my essay, I focus
> in particular on Goethe's Werther - where we can
> witness a new and truly modern notion of love emerge),
> link love even more closely to the identity of the
> (modern) individual. Love now becomes a medium for
> self-exploration and self-validation independent of
> particular economic, moral, or other social needs.
> My article drew on the works of the German sociologist
> Niklas Luhmann, especially his book Love as Passion:
> The Codification of Intimacy. Luhmann (and, more
> generally, contemporary systems theory) encourages one
> to read the changes in the semantics of love and
> individuality against the backdrop of a comprehensive
> theory of modernity, as responding to the change from
> stratification to functional differentiation. In my
> article, I point out that the semantic changes of love
> must also be linked more immediately to a change in
> communicational media. The dominant communicative
> medium of pre-modern aristocratic society was
> conversation. In the eighteenth century, however, as a
> late effect of the printing press and due to the
> increased alphabetization of Europe, writing becomes
> the preferred communicational medium. As Cornelia Bohn
> has argued, writing (esp. letter writing) fosters a
> very different semantics that conversation, puts a
> premium on communications of authenticity and
> individuality and invites more self-reflection.
> I would be happy to expand and further discuss any of
> these developments as well as the theoretical
> framework that supports the argument. In light of the
> medial changes mentioned, I would also like to discuss
> the present state of affairs, in particular the effect
> of the new, digital media (email, internet, cell
> phones, text messaging, Facebook, etc.) on the
> semantics of love. Cell phones reduce the distance and
> availability of addressees; Facebook comes to
> structure our "individuality" once again along types
> and ideals rather than profiling individuality in
> terms of difference; the constant flow of messaging
> reduces rather than increases the propensity for
> self-reflection, emails in particular present a
> strange cross between writing and conversation that
> affects how we present ourselves, address the
> recipient, how we profile and differentiate
> sensibilities, etc. (those of us who still remember
> writing personal letters will easily notice such
> difference). I hope we can discuss and theorize some
> of these changes. Do they lead to more "rationality"
> with matters of the heart? Does constant availability
> increase or decrease intimacy levels? Can we relate
> them to the increased decoupling of love and sex? How
> do they affect the eighteenth-century idea that binds
> love to marriage? How are gender roles affected? Etc.
> Edgar Landgraf
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre

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