Every story is a love story
Posted by hgreynold
In a very short while, we will all find ourselves subjected, willingly or not, to a gross commodification of sentimentality for profit. I mean it is almost Valentine’s Day, and that means it’s time to talk about Love.
Love is not all bad, of course. C.S. Lewis was so good as to remind us, in his Allegory of Love, that the notion – “the food both of modern sentimentality and modern cynicism” – is what makes fiction possible.
Or, to put things even more simply: every story is an allegory, and every allegory is about love. Q.E.D., every story is a love story.
This will all make sense by March.
Lewis worried that nobody would make it through his Allegory of Love – he confesses as much by the third chapter. It is, after all, full of untranslated Old French and unanswerable questions such as: “What is life without love, tra-la-la?” The which we are compelled to answer, sorrowfully: “Nothing, tra-la-la[?]”
But fame, and myself, have caught up with Lewis in the end.
For the remaining Wednesdays in the month of February, you can expect to see a blunderingly simplified interpretation of all that Lewis was trying to say in his masterpiece of literary criticism – interspersed with a few assertions of my own.
The first and most astounding of these assertions is that the modern idea of love, particularly of romantic happiness as an essentially human quality, is something of a recent invention:
“It seems to us natural that love should be the commonest theme of serious imaginative literature: but a glance at classical antiquity or at the Dark Ages at once shows us that what we took for ‘nature’ is really a special state of affairs, which will probably have an end, and which certainly had a beginning in eleventh-century Provence.”
To illustrate, an example. Over a very fine dinner the other day I heard an intellectual pantler with philosophical affectations attempt to tell a joke along these lines: “Everybody thinks that the story of Abelard and Heloise is romantic except the people who’ve actually read the story of Abelard and Heloise.”
Actually, I was the pantler and it was a pretty funny observation. Come back next week, after you’ve read Abelard and Heloise, and we’ll talk.