Valentine’s Day, one of our most popular holidays, has evolved into a cult of consumption. Everywhere you turn there are sappy love-themed, cupid-ridden ads meant to draw in consumers. But what is the deeper meaning behind all of the candy-coated romance? Fordham spotlights a few books that examine the many dimensions of love.
On Love: In the Muslim Tradition by Rusmir Mahmutcehajic, is a study of the Islamic faith, most specifically Sufism. In addition to being an astute scholarly collection, the book looks at the relationship between love and faith, knowledge and spirituality. Sufism is Islamic Mysticism, but the book is written in a language that is universal and simple to understand–like the language of love itself.
God, Justice,Love, Beauty by Jean-Luc Nancy,is a skillful reminder that philosophy is important to all of us. The book is also a model of intellectual generosity and openness. Seamlessly moving from Schwarzenegger to Plato, from Kant, Roland Barthes, and Caravaggio to Caillou, Harry Potter, and the pages of Gala magazine, Nancy’s wide-ranging references bear witness to his commitment to think of “culture” in its broadest sense.
In Poets of Divine Love: The Rhetoric of Franciscan Spiritual Poetry, Alessandro Vettori examines the vernacular of a different faith–that of the pre-Renaissance Franciscans. The poets in this case are St. Francis of Assisi and Jacopone da Todi, two Franciscans writing in Umbria during the 13th century. The resulting poems form a backbone of vernacular Italian literary tradition, and establish an essential relationship between faith and love.
Love and Other Technologies: Retrofitting Eros for the Information Age takes a look at love through the lens of modern technology–what is love’s place in our contemporary plugged-in culture? Love, as Dominic Pettman sees it, is every society’s interpretation of self in relation to others. So in today’s world, is love just another form of technology? For Pettman, the articulation of love is a technique of belonging: a way of responding to the basic plurality of everyone’s identity, a process that becomes increasingly complex as the forms of mediated communication, from cell phone and text messaging to the mass media, multiply and mesh together. This book brings love from the romance-cloaked past firmly into the here and now.
A Fury in the Words: Love and Embarrassment in Shakespeare’s Venice. Shakespeare’s two Venetian plays are dominated by the discourse of embarrassment. The Merchant of Venice is a comedy of embarrassment, and Othello is a tragedy of embarrassment. This nomenclature is admittedly anachronistic, because the term “embarrassment” didn’t enter the language until the late seventeenth century.
The Venetian plays represent embarrassment not merely as a condition but as a weapon and as the wound the weapon inflicts. Characters in The Merchant of Venice and Othello devote their energies to embarrassing one another. But even when the weapon is sheathed, it makes its presence felt, as when Desdemona means to praise Othello and express her love for him: “I saw Othello’s visage in his mind” (1.3.253). This suggests, among other things, that she didn’t see it in his face.
Speaking the Truth in Love reveals the spiritual depth and profound doctrine of the Orthodox Church from the unique perspective of a Christian leader speaking the truth in love.
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