Love and Passion in 20th-Century Literature

April 18, 2018

romancingLove and passion in the pages of 20th-century literature is the subject of Professor Laura Richardson’s upcoming course, “Romancing the 20th Century”.  We spoke with her to  find out more.


WIH Reporter: How did you come up with this idea for your class?

Richardson: The idea came from a great discussion my students and I had in my last course, “Contemporary Women’s Literature.” We were about to discuss Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto”, and I asked the class to share their ideas and experiences of what love is. Our amazing conversation ended up informing nearly all of our subsequent discussions; it was a special moment when we all shared, learned about each other, and then were able to take those experiences and use them as interpretative tools for the novels. I thought to myself, “I want to have more classes like this!” So the idea of “Romancing the 20th Century” was born!

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about romance in literature?

Richardson: As a genre, “romance” can designate either 1. a prose narrative that follows heroic or mysterious characters who participate in events in far-away times and places and/or 2. in the more familiar use of the word, a love story. We’ll be taking a close look at our course texts to determine how they specifically fit into one or both of these long-standing traditions of “romance.”

WIH Reporter: What surprises are in store for us in learning about this subject?

Richardson: Twentieth-century literature isn’t really known for its romances, but rather for its interest in technology, globalization, formal experimentation, and skepticism. As a class, we’ll be looking to define the traits of this genre in the past hundred-odd years. You won’t find a class like this anywhere else!

WIH Reporter; What will be the format of your class?

Richardson: Each day will begin with a presentation of discussion questions, useful background material on the author(s), and appropriate historical/theoretical context in lecture form. We’ll spend more time on this the first day as we talk about the definition of “romance.” Then we’ll spend at least an hour of each class in discussion.

WIH Reporter: We often like to ask the following question. What books are on your night table right now?

Richardson: I’m currently making my way through Stephen King’s The Stand (1500+ pages, but a real post-apocalyptic page-turner!) and am also enjoying Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, a nonfiction book on the role of medicine at the end of life.

Richardson’s 6-week class begins on May 1 at 10:00 a.m. For more information or to register, click here.