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Searching the heart

392 Lys

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Searching the heart : women, men, and romantic love in nineteenth-century America

Lystra, Karen.

New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.

ix, 336 p. ; 25 cm.

In January 1862, Charles Godwin courted Harriet Russell, ultimately unsuccessfully, with the following lines: "Like cadences of inexpressibly sweet music, your kind words came to me: causing every nerve to vibrate as though electrified by some far off strain of heavenly harmony." Almost ten years later, Albert Janin, upon receiving a letter from his beloved Violet Blair, responded with, "I kissed your letter over and over again, regardless of the small-pox epidemic at New York, and gave myself up to a carnival of bliss before breaking the envelope." And in October 1883, Dorothea Lummis wrote candidly to her husband Charles, "I like you to want me, dear, and if I were only with you, I would embrace more than the back of your neck, be sure."
In Karen Lystra's richly provocative book, Searching the Heart, we hear the voices of Charles, Albert, Dorothea, and nearly one hundred other nineteenth-century Americans emerge from their surprisingly open, intimate, and emotional love letters. While historians of nineteenth-century America have explored a host of private topics, including courtship, marriage, birth control, sexuality, and sex roles, they have consistently neglected the study of romantic love. Lystra fills this gap by describing in vivid detail what it meant to fall in love in Victorian America.
Based on a vast array of love letters, the book reveals the existence of a real openness--even playfulness--between male and female lovers which challenges and expands more traditional views of middle-class private life in Victorian America. Lystra refutes the common belief that Victorian men and women held passionlessness as an ideal in their romantic relationships. Enabling us to enter the hidden world of Victorian lovers, the letters they left behind offer genuine proof of the intensity of their most private interactions, feelings, behaviors, and judgments. Lystra discusses how Victorians anthropomorphized love letters, treating them as actual visits from their lovers, insisting on reading them in seclusion, sometimes kissing them (as Albert does with Violet's), and even taking them to bed. She also explores how courtship rituals--which included the setting and passing of tests of love--succeeded in building unique, emotional bonds between lovers, and how middle-class views of romantic love, which encouraged sharing knowledge and intimacy, gave women more power in the home.
Through the medium of love letters, Searching the Heart allows us to enter, unnoticed, the Victorian bedroom and parlor. We will leave with a different view of middle-class Victorian America.

Available

Non-fiction - JH & HSNon-fiction - JH & HS

1 copy available at Paideia School

ISBN:

0195058178 (alk. paper) : $24.95

LC Call No:

GT2703 .L97 1989

Dewey Class No:

392/.4 19

Author:

Lystra, Karen.

Title:

Searching the heart : women, men, and romantic love in nineteenth-century America / Karen Lystra.

Publisher:

New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.

Physical:

ix, 336 p. ; 25 cm.

BibliogrphyNote:

Includes bibliographies and index.

Subject:

Sex customs--United States--History--19th century.

Subject:

Courtship--United States--History--19th century.

Subject:

Love-letters--United States--History--19th century.

Subject:

Love--History--19th century.

Field Ind Subfield Data
001 Control No     832
005 LastTransaction     20070514121110.0
008 Data Elements     020814s1989 nyu b 00110 eng
020 ISBN   $a ISBN  0195058178 (alk. paper) :
    $c Terms of availability  $24.95
035 System Ctrl No   $a System control number  89002890
040 Cataloging Src   $a Original cataloging agency  DLC
    $c Transcribing agency  DLC
    $d Modifying agency  DLC
043 GAC   $a Geographic area code  n-us---
050 LC Call No 00  $a Classification number  GT2703
    $b Item number  .L97 1989
082 Dewey Class No 00  $a Classification number  392/.4
    $2 Edition number  19
100 ME:PersonalName 10  $a Personal name  Lystra, Karen.
245 Title 10  $a Title  Searching the heart :
    $b Remainder of title  women, men, and romantic love in nineteenth-century America /
    $c Statement of responsibility  Karen Lystra.
260 PublicationInfo 0   $a Place of publication, dist.  New York :
    $b Name of publisher, dist, etc  Oxford University Press,
    $c Date of publication, dist, etc  1989.
300 Physical Desc   $a Extent  ix, 336 p. ;
    $c Dimensions  25 cm.
504 BibliogrphyNote   $a Bibliography, etc. note  Includes bibliographies and index.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Sex customs
    $z Geographic subdivision  United States
    $x General subdivision  History
    $y Chronological subdivision  19th century.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Courtship
    $z Geographic subdivision  United States
    $x General subdivision  History
    $y Chronological subdivision  19th century.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Love-letters
    $z Geographic subdivision  United States
    $x General subdivision  History
    $y Chronological subdivision  19th century.
650 Subj:Topic $a Topical term  Love
    $x General subdivision  History
    $y Chronological subdivision  19th century.
852 Holdings   $h Classification part  392 Lys
    $p Barcode  10879
    $9 Cost  $24.95
    $a Location  PS
961 wl  $t   9

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