10 book reviews on the rituals, traditions, and science of romance.

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Behl, Aditya. Love’s subtle magic: an Indian Islamic literary tradition, 1379-1545, ed. by Wendy Doniger. Oxford, 2012. 403p ISBN 9780195146707, $74.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE April 2013

Doniger (Univ. of Chicago) has edited an excellent volume constructed from lectures and drafts written by the late Behl, who was a pioneer in the interpretation and translation of Hindavi (a literary language formed from North Indian dialects) Sufi romances, i.e., adventurous love stories written by Muslim Sufi poets in the premodern Hindu milieu. Behl’s brilliant studies of four romances explore the complex mixture of Hindu and Muslim social identities and literary traditions. Hindavi Sufi poets drew on the conventions and symbolism of Persian poetry to portray themes ranging from the erotic desires of heroes and heroines to the soul’s mystical union with God. The romances combined Sufi mystical psychology with Indian literary theory, applying the multiple meanings of the “juice” or “essence” (rasa) of aesthetic experience to explore the Sufi notion of love (‘ishq), whose travails constitute stages of the soul’s journey to the divine. This volume is an indispensable guide to a long-ignored literary genre that provides glimpses into a society in which Hindus and Muslims, kings and commoners, composed a social order now divided into two hostile communities. Summing Up: Highly recommended. College and university libraries; upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty. —J. Bussanich, University of New Mexico

Brogaard, Berit. On romantic love: simple truths about a complex emotion. Oxford, 2015. 270p bibl index afp ISBN 9780199370733, $21.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE July 2015

This tour de force by Brogaard (Univ. of Miami) aims at providing a theory of romantic love. It features a vast array of compelling examples drawn from pop culture, history, and everyday life, and draws on cutting-edge research not only in philosophy but also in psychology and neuroscience. Brogaard argues that love is an emotion that can be consciously experienced as a response of the body or mind but that can also occur unconsciously. In her view, love can come in degrees, can be assessed as both rational and irrational, and need not be directed exclusively at a single individual. Moreover, one may take deliberate steps to fall out of love with someone else and to heal oneself after heartbreak. Brogaard’s book is written to be accessible to general readers without sacrificing philosophical content. It offers more than enough interesting current theoretical work to merit serious attention by professional readers. Whimsical line drawings by illustrator Gareth Southwell add to the book’s appeal. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. —A. Kind, Claremont McKenna College

Geher, Glenn. Mating intelligence unleashed: the role of the mind in sex, dating, and love, by Glenn Geher and Scott Barry Kaufman. Oxford, 2013. 298p ISBN 9780195396850, $27.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE October 2013

Geher (SUNY, New Paltz), one of the authors of this delightful and fascinating book, is a tireless promoter of evolutionary psychology who is the coeditor of two previous books on human mating strategies and the nature of emotional intelligence. Kaufman (New York Univ.) is a researcher with a flair for asking creative and novel questions about human intelligence. They bring together their two areas of interest to propose a new rubric, “mating intelligence,” under which scientists who study human mating should conduct their research. They define mating intelligence as “the entire set of psychological abilities designed for sexual reproduction,” and argue that it is “not a single adaptation” but consists “of dozens or hundreds of distinct psychological processes and learned skills that affect the mating domain based heavily on context.” Breaking away from reductionist evolutionary approaches, the authors focus on individual differences and the crucial role they play in the various contexts in which individuals deploy their mating intelligence. Written with considerable humor and an appreciation for the limitations of the data on which evolutionary explanations of human mating behaviors are based, the book concludes with an ambitious, well-argued set of applications of their theory. An important contribution to the literature. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. —R. R. Cornelius, Vassar College

Human bonding: the science of affectional ties, ed. by Cindy Hazan and Mary I. Campa. Guilford, 2013. 394p ISBN 9781462510672, $65.00; ISBN 9781462510696 ebook, $65.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE February 2014

The contributors to this volume include accomplished scholars such as Lisa Diamond, Mario Mukulincer, and Phillip Shaver as well as others who are at beginning of their careers; seven are former students of Hazan (Cornell Univ.). The book does indeed provide an “overview of human bonding across the life span” and demonstrates the enduring influence of John Bowlby’s attachment theory. The topics range from monogamy among birds to hooking up among college students and the connection between good relationships and health. The book is well organized; the chapters are generally readable although also technical, and provide thorough (sometimes to a fault) discussions of relevant literature. The most interesting contributions go beyond summarizing the literature and are more thesis driven, as exemplified by Lauren Lee and David Sbarra’s exploration of relationship dissolution and Lisa Diamond’s analysis of the difference between love and desire. Several authors rely heavily on evolutionary psychology’s assumptions in accounting for behavior and thereby forgo the opportunity to highlight social and experiential aspects of human relationships. Nonetheless, this is a significant text that realistically reflects the strengths and limitations of the interdisciplinary research from which it draws. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. —S. Halling, Seattle University

Illouz, Eva. Why love hurts: a sociological explanation. Polity, 2012. 293p ISBN 9780745661520, $25.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE November 2012

Once in a great while, an author and a book come along that make even the most erudite of thinkers and readers pause and say, “Wow—I never thought of it that way before!” This author—and this book—indicates that 2012 is just such a time. In her breathtakingly provocative tour de force, sociologist Illouz (Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) analyzes the topic of love—specifically, the pain and misery love poses for so many. Radically shifting the explanatory lens away from psychology and the individual psyche to the social and cultural contradictions that structure modern selves and identities, the author brilliantly makes the case that private failures in love are rooted in very public institutional arrangements of which so many are not of one’s own making and choosing. Yet these arrangements are integral in shaping one’s very desires, how one seeks to fulfill those desires, and the feelings and emotions concomitant with those desires. Hence, those in positions of power to create and influence those institutional arrangements become a source of great scrutiny for Illouz, and her subsequent findings will undoubtedly henceforth redefine the research agenda on the nature of love, furthering debate on this universal human experience. Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above. —J. R. Mitrano, Central Connecticut State University

Jenkins, Carrie. What love is: and what it could be. Basic Books, 2017. 213p index ISBN 9780465098859, $26.99; ISBN 9780465098866 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE September 2017

Falling in love can be a risky business, in part because it can make one dependent on someone else for one’s own well-being. Anyone who writes about love is also taking a chance, for such an endeavor can be an exercise in self-revelation: theory about love says a lot about the love life of the theorist. Jenkins (Univ. of British Columbia, Vancouver) is straightforward about her own amatory situation; she defends polyamory from the outset and uses her personal experience to rethink romantic love and the idea of the “one and only.” Rejecting the mystique of romantic love, Jenkins writes about love as a feminist and as someone trained in analytic metaphysics. Though the writing is clear and not overly technical, the author honors scientific materialism and psychology as two mutually compatible perspectives on the nature of love. She discusses a lot of contemporary issues, for example “slut-shaming,” and she includes some of the most recent scientific studies of love. She also reflects on the future of romantic love and marriage, although there the book becomes polemical. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. —R. White, Creighton University

Karandashev, Victor. Romantic love in cultural contexts. Springer, 2017. 305p bibl index ISBN 9783319426815, $139.00; ISBN 9783319426839 ebook, $109.00.
Reviewed in CHOICE August 2017

In this rather ambitious book, Karandashev (psychology, Aquinas College) attempts to examine the concept of “romantic love” throughout history and across many world cultures. He incorporates elements of—and examples from—literature, history, anthropology, and sociology throughout the book and is to be commended for such ambition. Yet the daunting task of doing so (in approximately 300 pages) essentially takes readers on a whirlwind, all-too-truncated tour of romantic love. Each era or geographic area the author covers is relegated to a few paragraphs, resulting in a rapid-fire, staccato writing style. Some will find this approach engaging; others may be overwhelmed and frustrated at times. Though the research is clearly quite thorough and comprehensive, the summaries often leave readers wanting more: more details, more examples, more context. And perhaps that is the beauty of the book, as it will no doubt compel many readers to consult the extensive bibliography and venture where their academic interest in love may take them! Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty. —J. R. Mitrano, Central Connecticut State University

Maunder, Robert. Love, fear, and health: how our attachments to others shape health and health care, by Robert Maunder and Jonathan Hunter. Toronto, 2015. 332p bibl index afp ISBN 9781442647510, $75.00; ISBN 9781442615601 pbk, $30.95; ISBN 9781442668409 ebook, $30.95.
Reviewed in CHOICE June 2016

This book is an excellent contribution to the literature on human attachment as it relates to health issues. Psychiatrists Maunder and Hunter (both, Univ. of Toronto) synthesize a vast amount of theoretical information on biology, evolutionary psychology, development, interpersonal relationships, and attachment, and present it in a very readable fashion. Case studies of people grappling with attachment issues help to make the work come alive. Using this method, the authors clearly elucidate how for some individuals, the stress of illness, loss, and other life events can cause an imbalance in an already challenged attachment style. Importantly, the authors focus on the need for a humanistic health care system, on micro and macro levels. They provide needed guidance on how health care professionals can and should respond in a humanistic manner to help patients with compromised attachment styles; they also address the importance of comfortable treatment settings. The well-organized book includes 30 pages of notes and a 36-page bibliography, which will be a useful resource for students and professionals. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through professionals/practitioners in the health sciences. —M. C. Matteis, Regis College

Rybin, Steven. Gestures of love: romancing performance in classical Hollywood cinema. SUNY Press, 2017. 261p bibl index ISBN 9781438465517, $85.00; ISBN 9781438465531 ebook, contact publisher for price.
Reviewed in CHOICE December 2017

In the prelude to this book Rybin (Minnesota State Univ., Mankato) stages a heroic battle between academic film studies (which “dutifully” follows sociology, psychology, or marketing campaigns) and his own “more human” approach. Fortunately this unpromising start—my generic voice is “more human” than yours; other critics don’t have the right feelings—is a momentary gesture and not the whole performance. The exaltations, appreciations, and confessions of cinephilia (“loving actors is important,” p. 30; Barrymore and Lombard “theatrically solicit our loving response,” p. 245) turn out to play a relatively small role overall. Instead the book consists mostly of close readings of scenes in 1930s screwball comedy, 1940s noir, and 1950s melodrama. These lengthy descriptions of acting in cinematic space are intricately detailed and in dialogue with all the appropriate (but overly “dutiful”?) scholarship. Since Stanley Cavell, James Naremore, and many others have talked brilliantly about love, coupledom, and acting in these films, finding new things to say is of course difficult. Yet Rybin clearly knows these actors, directors, and films backward and forward, so this reviewer concurs with his belief that “others can perhaps find such descriptions useful.” Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty. —S. C. Dillon, Bates College

Verdolin, Jennifer L. Wild connection: what animal courtship and mating tell us about human relationships. Prometheus Books, 2014. 302p bibl index afp ISBN 9781616149468 pbk, $18.95; ISBN 9781616149475 ebook, $11.99.
Reviewed in CHOICE January 2015

Those who think only humans have “one night stands” and “friends with benefits” have thought wrong. Animal behaviorist Verdolin (National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, Duke Univ.) gives her readers a peek at the sexual escapades of kangaroos, squirrels, geese, mayflies, barnacles, and myriad other species, describing how they attract, choose, and “do the deed” with their sexual partners. By studding the book with personal anecdotes of her and her friends’ love lives, the author explains how human dating and sexual customs map onto animal courtship and mating strategies, revealing striking similarities in the sexual behavior of human and nonhuman animals. Although the book has clear connections to the disciplines of ethology and comparative psychology, it is not a scholarly work but rather a casual text for nonspecialists with an interest in animal behavior. More advanced students should consider Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology, ed. by David Westneat and Charles Fox (2010), which includes several chapters on reproductive behavior. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers. —K. G. Akers, Wayne State University