LoveA History in Five Fantasies
A History in Five Fantasies

We make sense of love with fantasies, stories that shape feelings that are otherwise too overwhelming, incoherent, and wayward to be tamed. For love is a complex, bewildering, and ecstatic emotion covering a welter of different feelings and moral judgments.

Drawing on poetry, fiction, letters, memoirs, and art, and with the aid of a rich array of illustrations, historian Barbara H. Rosenwein explores five of our most enduring fantasies of love: like-minded union, transcendent rapture, selfless giving, obsessive longing, and insatiable desire. Each has had a long and tangled history with lasting effects on how we in the West think about love today. Yet each leads to a different conclusion about what we should strive for in our relationships.

If only we could peel back the layers of love and discover its “true” essence. But love doesn’t work like that; it is constructed on the shards of experience, story, and feeling, shared over time, intertwined with other fantasies. By understanding the history of how we have loved, Rosenwein argues, we may better navigate our own tumultuous experiences and perhaps write our own scripts.

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  • November 2021
  • 200 pages
  • 138 x 216 mm / 5 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $25.00
  • 9781509531837
  • Open eBook $20.00
  • 9781509531868
Table of Contents

Note to Readers


1. Like-Mindedness

2. Transcendence

3. Obligation

4. Obsession

5. Insatiability


Further Reading


About the Author
Barbara H. Rosenwein is internationally recognized for her work in the history of emotions, a field she helped to pioneer. Her books explore the many ways in which different groups have experienced, valued, and expressed emotions over time. There are no universal, “basic emotions,” but all of us have feelings shaped by (and shaping in turn) the “emotional communities” in which we live. Rosenwein has taught and lectured around the world, but her home is near Chicago, where she lives with her husband, Tom.
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“Rosenwein’s history of love is erudite yet entertaining, crisp yet kaleidoscopic. The ‘five fantasies’ she describes in rich historical detail are the pillars of contemporary romance. This book shows us what the myths are made of and empowers us to resist their deadly allure.”
Carrie Jenkins, author of What Love Is and Sad Love

“If you have any interest in love and what it has meant through the centuries, this wise and vivid book is for you. Never preachy, yet sparkling with insight, brief yet wide-ranging, these pages are bound to excite discussion for years to come.”
Lynn Hunt, author of History: Why It Matters

“This is a highly original, refreshing take on the complex history of love.”
Peter N. Stearns, author of A History of Shame

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