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The Invention of Romantic Love?: A Discussion

All Stanford undergraduates are invited to join Zephyr to discuss C. S. Lewis's provocative historical analysis of the modern origins of our ideas of romantic love.

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The Invention of Romantic Love?: A Discussion
The Invention of Romantic Love?: A Discussion

Time & Location

Feb 07, 2024, 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Palo Alto, 2345 Dartmouth St, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

About the Event

"French poets, in the eleventh century, discovered or invented, or were the first to express, that romantic species of passion which English poets were still writing about in the nineteenth. They effected a change which has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched, and they erected impassable barriers between us and the classical past or the Oriental present. Compared with this revolution the Renaissance is a mere ripple on the surface of literature. There can be no mistake about the novelty of romantic love: our only difficulty is to imagine in all its bareness the mental world that existed before its coming." (C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love, p. 4)

Such is the surprising claim advanced and defended by C. S. Lewis in the first chapter of his classic work on the devleopment of allegorical love poetry, The Allegory of Love. If Lewis is right, then much of what we take to be natural and inevitable in our conceptions of romantic love are in fact contingent and deeply historically conditioned. Is Lewis right? If not, where does he go wrong? If so, should this affect how we conceive of romantic love—and, if so, how?

All Stanford undergraduates are invited to join Zephyr as we discuss these and other questions on the evening of February 7th, 6:00–8:00pm. Participants are encouraged to read Chapter 1 of The Allegory of Love ahead of time, which can be found here. Those with limited time should focus on the first part of the chapter (p. 1–23). (Note that Lewis will sometimes quote works in their original languages without translation; however, the reader will usually be able to glean the gist of the passage from its context.) Dinner will be provided to all participants. Please RSVP in advance so that Zephyr can obtain an accurate headcount.

Discussion will be led by Zephyr's Director of Academic Programs, Landon Hobbs.

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