Love and Friendship

Allan Bloom, Love and Friendship (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993)

Summary from the Publisher:

Written with the erudition and wit that made The Closing of the American Mind a #1 best-seller, Love and Friendship is a searching examination of the basic human connections at the center of the greatest works of literature and philosophy throughout the ages. In a spirited polemic directed at our contemporary culture, Allan Bloom argues that we live in a world where love and friendship are withering away. Science and moralism have reduced eros to sex. Individualism and egalitarianism have turned romantic relationships into contractual matters to be litigated. Survey research has made every variety of sexual behavior seem normal, and thus boring. In sex education classes, children learn how to use condoms, but not how to deal with the hopes and risks of intimacy. We no longer know how to talk and think about the peril and promise of attraction and fidelity. What has been lost is what separates human beings from beasts – the power of the imagination, which can transform sex into eros. Our impoverished feelings are rooted in our impoverished language of love. To recover the danger, the strength, and the beauty of eros, we must study the great literature of love, in the hope of rekindling the imagination of beauty and virtue that fuels eros. We must love to learn, in order to learn to love again.

Like The Closing of the American Mind, this is an exhilarating journey of ideas in search of the truths that great writers and philosophers have offered about our most precious and perilous longings. Love and Friendship dissects Rousseau’s invention of Romantic love, meant to provide a new basis for human connection, amid the atomism of bourgeois society, and exposes the reasons for its ultimate failure. Bloom tells of the Romantics’ idea of the sublime and Freud’s theory of sublimation. He takes us into the universe of Shakespeare’s plays, where love is a natural phenomenon that gives rise to both the brightest hopes and the bitterest conflicts and disappointments. Finally, Bloom offers a fresh reading of the greatest work on eros, Plato’s Symposium.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: The Fall of Eros

Part 1: Rousseau and the Romantic Project

Stendhal, The Red and the Black
Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Flaubert, Madame Bovary 
Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Part 2: Shakespeare and Nature

Romeo and Juliet 
Antony and Cleopatra
Measure for Measure
Troilus and Cressida
The Winter’s Tale

Interlude on Two Strange Couples: Hal and Falstaff, Montaigne and La Boetie

Part 3: The Ladder of Love


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