Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Nancy K. Miller

Committee Members

Eric Lott

Anne Humpherys

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Women's Studies


love, passion, recognition, romance


Recognizing the Twentieth-Century Love Story investigates an alternative framework through which we can understand the form and function of love stories in the twentieth century. While the love story has previously been understood in terms of a requirement that the lover renunciate passion in order to enjoy a positive narrative outcome, I suggest that some love narratives instead center mutual and “accurate-enough” recognition as a requirement of the desired happily ever after. In addition to requiring that the characters “know themselves,” such recognition goes beyond framing the loved other as an independent subject by also recognizing the beloved in ways that are acceptable to them: ways that are, in other words, accurate enough in terms of how they view themselves.

This shift toward recognition as a crucial aspect of the love story reflects cultural changes in the way we envision romantic love and relationship more generally. It also has implications for the way the love story treats its heroines as well as the men who desire them. Aligning itself more closely with the characteristics Hélène Cixous ascribes to l'écriture féminine, such love stories privilege characters who know and are true to themselves in all their uncontained, expansive, complex glory, and punish those who withhold recognition of themselves or others in an attempt to craft artificial stories of self. Thus, if the love story previously required the renunciation of passion, this subset of the form instead requires we be true to ourselves, including to our passionate desires, without allowing them to dominate the ones we love.


A revised version was uploaded on April 24, 2020, with the approval of the dissertation committee chair and the Graduate Center.