The great majority of stories are love stories. Is there a relationship between desire and reading? Desire and writing? Why do we read love stories? Why do lovers conventionally write letters, songs, poems?In the light of poststructuralist theory, and with reference to the work of Lacan and Derrida in particular, Catherine Belsey argues that fiction - including poetry, drama and film - is paradoxically the most serious location of writing about desire in Western culture. Beginning with the celebration of true love in contemporary popular romance, and the reluctant skepticism of postmodern novels, she goes on to explore past representations of passion by Chretien de Troyes, Malory, Spenser, Donne, Keats, Edgar Allan Poe, Tennyson and Bram Stoker. Belsey also discusses the role of desire in the utopian writings of Plato, More and speculative feminists, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Marge Piercy.Desire calls into question many of the distinctions Western culture takes for granted: between mind and body, fiction and reality, experience and writing.
Belsey's extensive account of love stories from the past and present analyzes the historical differences which indicate that desire also challenges the commonsense distinction between nature and culture.
"A book that is pointed, illuminating and beautifully written ...
Belsey pursues her topic through western culture with a quickness
and subtlety that seems equal to the elusive twists and turns of
desire itself." THES
"Her account is a ripping yarn in its own right. Such writing
contributes directly to what Morris liked to call the 'education of
desire': the vital task of teaching us not only to contest and
resist what exists, but how to desire, and how to expand the scope
of what we might desire instead. Thanks to Catherine Belsey's
splendid book, that task no longer looks quite so tough."
Kiernan Ryan, University of Cambridge
"A superb account of desire in popular and canonical literature,
as Belsey conclusively demonstrates, desire itself is not only
operative in sexual and romantic fantasies. It is operative
everywhere. Belsey's book should be required reading for writers of
romance novels." Harriet Hawkins, Critical Survey
"Both unsettling and strangely moving. By tracing the
constraints and resistances of desire in their historical
discontinuity, Belsey proposes to provide desire with a history."
Margaret Bridges, The European English Messenger
Part I: Desire Now:.
1. Prologue: Writing About Desire.
2. Reading Love Stories.
3. Desire in Theory: Freud, Lacan, Derrida.
4. Postmodern Love.
Part II: Desire at Other Times:.
5. Adultery in King Arthur's Court.
6. John Donne's Worlds of Desire.
7. Demon Lovers.
8. Futures: Desire and Utopia.