Our 21st-century view of romance is often shaped by media and popular culture; from The Bachelor to rom coms, Austen adaptations to eHarmony ads, we are inundated with images of, rules about, and expectations for relationships. Given this, has our perception and experience of love changed over time—or is there something uniquely pure and unchangeable to the workings of the human heart, particularly when we look outside the media’s narrow definition of it? Furthermore, why is romance in popular culture so strictly associated with the female and culturally diminished by reductive terms like chick lit and chick flick? Surely both men and women experience love in a variety of forms, so why has “the heart” become so squarely the domain of the female in popular culture and, as an extension of that, stereotyped as frivolous or irrational? We’ll explore the workings of the heart—how we as a society construct its processes, what we lose when we ascribe rules and gendered definitions onto stories that explore love, and whether or not cultural representations and lenses are useful tools for understanding love and romance.
Tania Modleski is the Florence R. Scott Professor of English. Professor Modleski embodies polymathy, specializing in American studies, gender studies, feminist theory, and film and popular culture. Her research focuses on women in film, popular culture, literature, and soap opera. Modleski is considered a pioneering feminist theorist for her work on women in Hitchcock and popular culture on a broader scale. She has published two books on women in film and popular culture and is currently at work on her latest publication entitled Male Weepies.