Whether fleeting or lifelong, platonic or romantic; Love is one profound emotion that beholds the power to nurture meaningful relationships and impart significant life lessons. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why love and romance are inextricably explored and extensively cruised themes in literature.
This intensely emotional and universal experience which is either quintessentially human or a mere socio-cultural construct belonging to a particular time and place has held an important place in literature for a very long time. It is but intriguingly natural, that an important question arises in our minds- how far has literature contributed to this characteristically celestial sentiment of romance?
Literature drawn from different parts of the planet seems to have been deciphering the matters of love, culture, and human nature through stories, folk tales, proses, poems, plays, and any form of expression that literature envisions. The presence of romance in a literary piece makes it acutely heartfelt and memorable. Be it the portrayal of a perfect romance in mills and boon which form the reading staple for youngsters, or the unparallel romance from the classics, or be it the heartbreakingly beautiful romances from modern literature. Be it ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen, ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare, ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy amongst the classics, or prevailing poetry of Blake and Wordsworth. Whether it is contemporary romances like ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’, or ‘Love, Unscripted’ by Owen Novell in electric literature. As much as literature likes to explore the topic of love, how far do readers get smitten by the theme where realistic expectations get superimposed with a tornado of fantasies?
Whereas there have been romantic elements of literature that create fantasies in the minds of people, there are also plethora of literary works with a realistic approach towards romance and that help the readers uplift their spirits, smile, and keep their expectations grounded. We as readers do realize that romanticism in literature helps create an understanding of relationships and self-awareness, however, in romanticism, emotions have always been more powerful than rationality. Romanticism is also not restricted to love and sentimentality, but it has always remained enigmatic with various interpretations.
When we speak about romanticism, we cannot ignore the romantic period of literature that emerged in the late eighteenth century and prevailed through the early nineteenth century. Using the creative power of natural elements, imaginations, coherent vision, and interpretations of reality, the legacy of romantics managed to influence people to surpass their everyday circumstances and travel into new territories. The Romantic period also paved way for certain literary characters like mysterious, rebellious, dark and broody, etc. that stemmed from romanticism.
Romance in literature not only impacts our reading habits and interests but also feeds our addiction to ‘love’. Whether it is the favorite haunts from bookshelves, bookstores, and footpaths, or the magic of grand libraries, even if it is the conveniently accessible digital library, foraying into the spell of romance and love has always been addictive and gratifying. The formulaic story arcs or exploratively innovative storylines, the theme itself is gripping. Be it the fascination of exotic setups or the predictable yet desirable elements of such stories that transfer the readers to a dreamland instantly.
When we speak about romance in literature, we can hardly ignore certain key elements in literary works of the genre. The theme spans through a variety of subgenres like romantic suspense, historical romance, young adult romance, paranormal and sci-fi romance, spiritual romance, contemporary romance, etc, and engrossingly engages the attention of the readers. Centered around tales of love and adventure, the theme of romance traverses across genres frequently and overlaps with other themes seamlessly. Whether it is through the command of books or the adaptations of these stories to the big screens where the power of romance seems multifold with the visuals, ‘romance and love’ have always ruled the hearts of audience.
When we speak about romance in literature, we certainly cannot leave behind Tragic Romance, and the different forms of Love that erupts in Romance genre. A love that does not go down smoothly or does not have a happy ending, or the kinds of love that erupt from May-December relationships, multiple relationships, or the portrayal of degrading essence of love and romance in any form. Whether it is ‘Disgrace’ or ‘Lolita’, literary contributions have held a mirror to the reality of different concepts of love, romance and relationships.
Romance in the literary universe has yet another important aspect that draws our attention. Those telltale signs of romanticism that identifies its subgenre and typifies it. These are the characteristics like Glorification of nature, Personification, Emotional awareness, Celebratory spirit of imagination and creativity, Aesthetic beauty, Sensory descriptions, and much more.
Whether it is the innocent youth or the fantasy of meeting the knight in shining armor or finding the damsel who sweeps you off your feet. Whether it is the fascination of this emotional experience that transforms life, or merely a reading pursuit. Romance in literature has been extremely popular, and at the same time, literature has influenced the concept of romance in the everyday lives of people. Although Romance has existed deeply in literature over a period, however, it has become widely popular and more acceptable in today’s times. These “timeless forms of entertainment and information” have adorned literature always.
“He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking.”, Quoted from ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy.
About the Columnist
An HR-turned-Author, Jyoti Jha has been associated with corporates like Infosys and Whirlpool in the past. Having lived in the USA and UK for about a decade, she embarked upon the journey of exploring the field of literature. A Literary Critic, Columnist, and an esteemed winner of ‘The Times of India Write India Season 3’, she has authored the books, ‘The Realms of Human Emotions’, ‘Around The World Through My Lens’, and ‘Aanandi’. A proud panelist and Guest Speaker in Talk Shows at prestigious institutions like IIM Lucknow, IIT Delhi, IIT Jammu, and Christ College, she has been an honorable Jury Member at the Literary Club, IIT BHU for Storytelling and Poetry. She has attended various Talk Shows with RJ.