Love's confusions are legion. We promise to love, but we cannot love at will. Love God, we're commanded, but we cannot love on command. And given the vicissitudes of self-love, even if we could love our neighbors as we love ourselves, would it be a good thing to do so? These are a few of the paradoxes that typically lead philosophers to oversimplify love--and that draw C. D. C. Reeve to explore it in all its complexity, searching for the lessons to be found within love's confusions.
Ranging from Plato, who wrote so eloquently on the subject, to writers as diverse as Shakespeare, Proust, Forster, Beckett, Huxley, Lawrence, and Larkin, Reeve brings the vast resources of Western literature and philosophy to bear on the question of love. As he explores the origins of Western thought on the subject, he also turns to the origins of individual experience--the relationship of mother and child, the template of all possible permutations of love--and to the views of such theorists as Freud, Melanie Klein, and Carol Gilligan. At the same time, he uses the story of the prototypical absent father, Odysseus, to demonstrate the importance of reconciling a desire for tenderness with a desire for strength if we are to make the most of love's potentials.
Looking at love in light of the classical world and Christianity, and in its complex relationship with pornography, violence, sadomasochism, fantasy, sentimentality, and jealousy, Reeve invites us to think more broadly about love, and to find the confusions that inevitably result to be creative rather than disturbing.
Reeve's Love's Confusions is a courageous and vulnerable book.
Reading this book is like having a week of splendid conversations with C. D. C. Reeve on topics related to love. The author is immensely well read and thinks deeper than orthodoxies of left or right. Epiphanies creep up on the reader unexpected and unheralded. Love's Confusions is brilliant and original; it made me think along new paths about my own life and the literature I love to read.
C. D. C. Reeve's Love's Confusions is impressive. Reeve's treatment of love is fresh, and even in the more abstract parts of the book the tone remains intimate. He does a good job of taking on this broad topic, handling issues of historical shifts in the meaning of love with real aplomb. The book offers an original and engaging account of love--no easy task.
Understanding the persistence of the past is only the first of the rewards of Love's Confusions. Reeve is also good--good enough to make an honest reader squirm, at times--on anxiety, envy, jealousy, sentimentality, narcissism, and pornography. And it's a pleasure watching him engage with great texts, not only of philosophy--Plato's Symposium, Augustine (there's a thrilling description of orgasm from The City of God), Kant, Kierkegaard, Iris Murdoch--but also literature: Homer (Reeve astutely explains why Odysseus gave up Calypso to return to Penelope, which many a shallow male, including this writer, has undoubtedly asked himself), Proust (of course), Junichiro Tanizaki, Philip Larkin, Milan Kundera, and Norman Rush's magnificent Mortals.
Love's Confusions takes the reader on a meandering journey with no clear goal but with a lot of learning and discovery along the way. It teases, it entices, it turns your head inside out, and it's a hell of a ride. In that regard, it's a lot like love itself.
Love's Confusions testifies to our capacity for learning from the pains and pleasures of love.
- 224 pages
- 5 x 7-1/2 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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