Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Language of Love

What is the language of love? How do we communicate love verbally and non-verbally? These were questions asked by Roland Barthes. Barthes developed the theory of semiotics and wrote the book A Lover's Discourse. In this book he analyzed the signs of love from literature and love stories.

There are many contexts and expressions of love from familial to romantic. The main focus for Barthes was unrequited love that is not returned. He concentrated on Goethe's 18th century novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther."

Goethe's novel was the tale a young man longing for the love of a woman who rejects him. The book was a historical phenomenon because it was one of the first books to be an international success and was believed to have encouraged several teenage suicides.

In his analysis of the language of love, Barthes suggests that all love-speak is a "language of solitude," that even when in mutually loving relationships, we still talk love as something happening within the self. We communicate love with the "I," in a self-reflective manner.

What is to be done?: Unrequited romantic love is paralyzing but full of meaning. Barthes suggests that to the lover "everything is a sign...everything signifies." It seems as though all things are more loaded and potent with meaning, every second counts and means something to the greater love story.

“I always ask the same question (will I be loved?), and this question is an alternative: all or nothing.” Barthes wrote that this is always the case, in familial or romantic love we are always seeking total acceptance that continues forever.

Show me whom to desire: “Mass culture is a machine for showing desire.” We hear of love, see it and learn of its archetypes through media. Fashion specifically presents to us the forms of desirability, revealing what an ideal lover look like and what a lover wears.

The lovers’ dialogue, between two is “never you without me,” using private communication. The pair of heterosexual lovers is a biological state of gender that is also the dialogue for men's and women's clothing which is separated into different fashion weeks and magazines that connect through sexual advertising.

The uncertainty of signs: “Signs are not proofs since anyone can produce false or ambiguous signs.” The wink for example is an unclear non-verbal sign and often misinterpreted.

Dressing the part: Werther was recognized as a character by his blue coat and yellow vest. When we love someone we can see their style of dressing as a constant form, as a fixture of their identity.

The ribbon: Werther obsessed about a ribbon of his desired lover. In love “each object is consecrated.” Love then creates a cult of objects. But the ultimate object is the “charming body” of the beloved, the only thing of worth, the only present to unwrap.

Dark glasses: Barthes writes that dark glasses help to obscure our feelings and hide our emotions. If you speak to someone wearing sunglasses, they appear shielded, checked out and generally uninterested in connecting or expressing feelings.

For more on the language of love see Le Love, dedicated to the stream of love consciousness.

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