As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is on our minds, and we wonder whether and how the definitions and manifestations of the notion of love have changed over the past century. Here, we take a look through at The Nation‘s archives to see how our contributors have written about love since our first publication in 1865.
Nation writers have pondered love, lust, and commitment through the lens of politics, history and cultural criticism; we have explored the topic through poetry and literature. Over fourteen decades, The Nation has criticized, supported, debated, satirized and glorified what Valentine’s Day stands for: love, sex and marriage.
Looking back through our archives, we learn one thing for certain: just as we’ll never stop debating the political, whether we are cynics or romantics, or both, love will never cease to fascinate and inspire us.
These are just a handful of excerpts from our extensive, digital archive, which covers just over 144 years. Some archive pieces are available for all viewers, and you can purchase single or multiple restricted-access articles. Archives are fully accessible to all Nation subscribers (for information about subscription, visit us here).
By Miriam Markowitz
January 21, 2010
Miriam Markowitz reviews Cristina Nehring’s latest book, A Vindication of Love, which chronicles love throughout the centuries. Nehring concludes that by comparison today’s conceptions of love have been both watered-down and contaminated, and it is up to contemporary poets and writers to revive it:
“That said, literature remains our best, most comprehensive archive of human love. All that we expect of love, our notions of how it will lift us, reward us, transform us, comes from a long line of books, poems and songs that have detailed what we may hope for from love and what price it will exact in exchange for its pleasures. Yet as Cristina Nehring argues in her recent treatise, A Vindication of Love, given that love has long been an animating force in literature it is surprising that it is so out of favor among novelists, poets and their ilk today. ‘Where once upon a time love poetry was the most abundant poetry written, it is now among the rarest–particularly in high-brow publications. Adolescents are still allowed to write love poems. Famous poets are not…’
“Nehring’s book is an elaborate defense of ferocious, passionate love, a love that ‘at its strongest and wildest and most authentic…is a demon,’ a religious faith and a ‘divine madness.’ In Nehring’s view, this love is endangered after an embattled twentieth century that brought us Freud, feminism, pheromones and friends with benefits. Love in the twenty-first century has never been freer or easier, she writes, and yet, paradoxically, it has been ‘defused and discredited…. Streamlined, safety-checked, and emptied of spiritual consequence.'”