Unit Two: Bad Romance

“Birds do it.  Bees do it.  Even educated fleas do it.”

(“Let’s do it.  Let’s Fall in Love”  Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, 1928)

Really?  Do birds, bees, and academically-slanted fleas perform the same mental leaps needed to live out the metaphor of actually “falling” into something we call love?  Or are they just performing their biological imperative of attempting to duplicate their genes, and nosy human beings describe what they do as “love.” 

As we continue to examine what separates homo sapiens sapiens from other forms of life on Earth, we will find compelling evidence for our exceptionality, once again, within the processes of our brains.  Just as the biological structures of the neo-cortex made possible the tools for human beings to become linguistified animals, so too do we find other residual effects.  The human capacity for creating and decoding symbols, aside from being a product of a language-using mind, has allowed for the development of the human capacity for our creative imagination.  Moving beyond the reproductive imagination observed in animals, one that anticipates, recollects, and allows for the expectations of past events, the human beings’ capacity for the creative imagination employs abstraction to create worlds that have no necessary relationship to the objective world we inhabit.  Human beings are free to speculate, deduce, create, and transform.  It is this capacity that accounts for one of the most studied and artistically expressed phenomenon in human history: falling in love.  But what are we really falling into, what makes it possible, and why do so many people spend so much time worrying about it?  In our third unit, “Bad Romance,” we’ll take a look at the origin of love in the West, its varieties and functions around the world, and articulate the relationship between its existence and the uniquely human creative imagination.  We’ll look at courtly love, examine its role in the middle-ages, and learn how Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet serves as an example of Stendhal’s Crystallization Theory of Love.  Finally, we will try to answer the question, are we nature’s imaginative animals, or are we just animals like all the rest.
Research Project
Neck Rings
Central Questions
  • What is love, and why do we care so much about it?

  • What are the varieties of love we experience as human beings, and what are their functions?

  • What makes love possible?

  • How would evolutionary biology explain romantic love?

  • What is courtly love, and how did it develop in the West?

  • How does the creative imagination separate homo sapiens sapiens from all other life?

  • Is it possible to have a lasting and satisfying love life?