Love is what people say it is: Performativity and narrativity in critical love studies

Michael Gratzke (Lead / Corresponding author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article outlines the objectives of critical love studies, their grounding in a wide range of critical theory, a multi-disciplinary methodology, and finally gives an example of practical application in literary scholarship and participatory community research into experiences of love in the lifespan. In so doing, I will make three fundamental claims about love. Firstly, that we cannot grasp its full potentiality (it is always yet to come); secondly that it is performative (it needs to come into being in individual occurrences of love); thirdly, that changes to the ways in which people experience and represent love happen through countless iterations of what I will call “love acts”. Love acts, like speech acts, do not have any These three claims are rooted in the basic understanding that love is relational in two ways: on the one hand, it needs to relate to an object, as mysterious powers. They simply take place within a normative framework which makes certain acts – such as saying “I love you.” – intelligible. fleeting as that may be. Types of love objects are habitually used to differentiate between phenomenological categories such as parental love, neighbourly love, romantic love (i.e. “sexualized intimate love”, Milligan 45), and so forth. On the other hand, love relates to a set of rules which define the validity of love in a given socio-historic context (cf. Pearce 2007). The relationship between an occurrence of love (a set of interrelated love acts) and its social context may be affirmative or constitute some form of deviation from the norm. In some cases, love acts which deviate from the norm achieve “critical mass” and have a transformative effect on their social world.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalJournal of Popular Romance Studies
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2017


    • close reading
    • Critical Love Studies
    • intimacy
    • love
    • narrative research
    • relationships
    • speech act theory


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