Gender-Vorlesungsverzeichnis der Universität Duisburg-Essen

"What's Love Got To Do With It?" - Romance in Antebellum America



Dr. Dietmar Meinel

Mi., 14:00-16:00 Uhr

V15 R01 H76



“All You Need Is Love” or so popular wisdom claims. For most people today, romantic love constitutes the foundation of a fulfilling life. This, however, is a fairly young sentiment. Many Americans in the early nineteenth century would be shocked that feelings should trump economic considerations when looking for a partner. Instead of love, the success of a relationship would fundamentally depend on strict obedience to the socially prescribed roles for men and women. Those notions about good relationships changed fundamentally in the first half of the nineteenth century. New ideas about the importance of falling in love and finding true love became popular. They also introduced novel social practices such as “dating” and created an entire industry for advice literature. All of these examples complicated and even challenged established social roles for men and women. At the same time, they instituted other norms, regulations, and expectations. “Romance in Antebellum America” looks at the changing conventions around love, romance, and relationships in antebellum America (1812 to 1861). In the seminar, we will explore the portrayal of romance in fiction (novels, short stories, and poetry), learn about courting rituals and how people met their future spouses, read about the thoughts and feelings everyday Americans expressed in their letters, get to know the advice literature of the day from beauty tips to marriage guidance, and look at paintings and other visual art. Most of the passionately debated issues of that period ? from class to gender, race, and sexuality ? continue to dominate our conversations about love, romance, and relationships today.