As many people know, it is Valentines Day tomorrow. The day where romantic gestures and generic valentines gifts of chocolate and flowers will be given in abundance. And although this is a day about relationships, love has played a profound role when it comes to romance and romanticism in literature and film. Love has always been a part of our humanity and as such, is something we celebrate. There are many authors, playwrights and poets that have either written about romance, romanticised (an idealised reality described in an unrealistic way; usually highly emotive) stories or people that endear or examine how we relate to others often from an imperfect place or in an unexpected way.
Literature has played a profound role in the way our culture has shaped our understanding of love. It is seen in Shakespeare’s Sonnets through to post-modern romance novels by authors such as Danielle Steel. I think that perhaps the most arguably influential author on matters of love and romanticised ideals would be Jane Austen. Not only has her work stood the test of time, but communities, holidays and adaptations of her work are continually being imagined and created. With Mr. Darcy communities and movies such as Lost in Austen and Austenland reflecting people’s obsession with Austin’s work it makes you wonder, what is it that has captured the attention and hearts of so many people? Surely Colin Firth’s portrayal of Darcy isn’t solely responsible?
I think think that for many people romanticised ideals are a reflection of our hope looking for the best in others. We see this in Elizabeth’s changing understanding of who Darcy is and through the changes Darcy makes in himself; and through Jane’s love for Bingley even after her affections are dashed. We relate to the characters wins and losses. We feel their elation and misseries. Yet more than vicariously living through Austin’s work, when it comes to adaptations or continuances to the Pride and Prejudice story; it is a continual regeneration of people’s love affair with the not only the characters but that specific period in time and the courting culture.
Personally for me, I went through my Austin phase when I was in my last year of high-school. My life consisted of Marianne and Colonel Brandon. And although Austin’s work has had a profound influence on my love of literature, the biggest literary influences in my life when it comes to the way I perceive and understand love are Jane Eyre -Charlotte Bronte and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte. I find that their styles of writing and the themes they explore are far more intricate and confronting than Austin’s observational style. What do you think about the role of love in literature? Is it a case of art imitating life? What would you say are the biggest literary influences in your life when it comes to love?