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Love: A History Paperback – January 8, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; Reprint edition (January 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300187742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300187748
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"A powerfully demystifying critique . . . that aims to show what love can and cannot mean in our lives."—John Gray
(John Gray)

"May could just have achieved the seemingly impossible and produced a truly original philosophy of love... May is able to draw out what is true in each age’s perception of love, discard what is misleading, and synthesise the result into the most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read."—Financial Times (Financial Times)

“This book deserves to rank with Denis de Rougemont’s classic Love in the Western World. Readers…will gain much from May’s well-crafted study.”—Library Journal
(Library Journal)

"Rich, provocative and illuminating."—Jane O’Grady, Times Higher Education
(Jane O'Grady Times Higher Education)

'Philosophers, theologians and intellectual historians have all talked about love, but until now there has not been a history of love - the idea and the emotion - in its bewilderingly many varieties. Simon May has given us such a history. Ranging from its ancient sources in the Hebrew Bible to the modern analysis of Proust, May shows how the contemporary ideal of love as the supreme human experience has developed from the twin influences of religion and Romanticism. He offers us more than a history of one of our most cherished values, however. For this is also a powerfully demystifying critique, a challenging and ambitious theory of love that aims to show what it can and cannot mean in our lives.' - John Gray
(John Gray)

'A beautifully written and fascinating account of the cultural history of love. Simon May gives a vindication of love that is both deeply insightful and inspiring, and, whether you believe that God is love or that Love is god, you will find your portrait in this book and rejoice in it.' - Roger Scruton
(Roger Scruton)

'May's enquiry into the nature of love is an amazing tour de force: surprising, provocative, refreshing and instructive by turns, it surpasses everything hitherto written on this subject in its scope and ambition.' - A.C. Grayling
(A.C. Grayling)

'Simon May's Love is that rarest of achievements: scholarship as inspired illumination. Fluent, witty, humane, May explores Western concepts of love from the Torah to Romanticism and on to the “fascinating paradox” that the liberation of sex and marriage in our day coexists with retrograde, and at times destructive, notions of love. May offers a corrective, and the reasoning that takes us there is an utterly riveting adventure.' -Wendy Steiner, author of The Real Real Thing: The Model in the Mirror of Art
(Wendy Steiner)

“[May’s] discussion…provides a coherent narrative that is aided by his illustrative writing.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“… rich, provocative and illuminating.”—Jane O’Grady, Times Higher Education
(Jane O'Grady Times Higher Education 2011-07-07)

"Well written and provocative, this book challenges tradition."—R. White, Choice
(R. White Choice)

“Intellectually engaging. . . Provocative.”—Charlotte Allen, The Wall Street Journal
(Charlotte Allen The Wall Street Journal)

"May could just have achieved the seemingly impossible and produced a truly original philosophy of love... May is able to draw out what is true in each age’s perception of love, discard what is misleading, and synthesise the result into the most persuasive account of love’s nature I have ever read."—Financial Times
(Financial Times)

"It’s a big question: what is love? May plunders Western poetry, philosophy and psychology to find answers, tracing our understanding from religious to romantic to ossified. Thought-provoking stuff."—Holly Kyte, Sunday Telegraph
(Holly Kyte Sunday Telegraph 2012-12-16)

"Almost intimidatingly erudite and wide-ranging… May asks why attitudes to love haven’t changed over the centuries when those things associated with it, like sex and marriage, have changed enormously. We still expect too much from it, a hangover from Romanticism, and must abandon the old opposites (love as self-sacrificing, love as self-pleasing) for a new theory of love."—Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald
(Lesley McDowell Sunday Herald (Glasgow) 2012-12-16)

"a challenging and thought-provoking study" — Good Book Guide
(The Good Book Guide 2013-01-01)

About the Author

Simon May is visiting professor of philosophy at King's College London, and Birkbeck, University of London.

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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Eliot Davila on December 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At the outset of Love: A History, Kings College Professor of Philosophy Simon May states that he has three principal aims: (1) to show how love has become a surrogate for God in the modern era, (2) to outline the illusions of this substitution, particularly the idea that love is unconditional, and (3) to propose a new way of thinking about love unburdened by these illusions (p. 13).

Thus May, who is preeminently a scholar of Nietzsche, has given himself the difficult task of sketching out a genealogy of Western love in order to show 'where things went wrong.' Fifteen of the book's seventeen chapters are devoted to expositions of famous philosophers and poets on love throughout the Western tradition. We are treated to readings of the Hebrew Bible, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius and Ovid, the early Christians, the troubadours, Spinoza, Rousseau, Schlegel and Novalis, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, and Proust. In general, May does an exceptional job navigating through the texts of these thinkers to describe the transformation of love in the West, but his story is not without gaps. Is not the Odyssey a love story and Homer our first great authority on love? Virgil and Catullus in Rome? In the era between the troubadours and Spinoza: Dante, Petrarch, Chaucer, Camões, Shakespeare, Milton--yet none with more than a passing mention by May. Same with Kierkegaard and Tolstoy. And to end a history of love at Proust? What of Buber, Heidegger, Levinas, Tillich, Neruda?

Genealogical considerations aside, May nevertheless emerges in his final chapter still holding onto the thread of his argument. The Professor is at his strongest when he claims that love is "the rapture we feel for people who (or things that) inspire in us the experience or hope of ontological rootedness" (p. 240).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By MartinHolland on December 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a very good read, love is mostly tackled indirectly it deserves a direct approach and it's finally here. Too bad the kindle edition doesn't show any illustrations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laurie E. Huberman on June 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book, very well and clearly written, has had a profound impact on me. It has helped me understand my own actions and feelings and put many things into a frame that makes sense to me. Very comforting somehow and a resource I will continue to come back to for a long time.
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By Kathryn on February 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A really good overview of love in Western history. User-friendly writing style, considering May is a philosopher. There are some areas in the book that I wonder if he is pushing a personal Christian agenda....not totally sure that is the case. Overall, though, worth a read for people interested in the philosophy of love, philosophical thinkers, or historians.
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