1st Edition

Love Letters Saving Romance in the Digital Age

By Michelle Janning Copyright 2018
    122 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    122 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In today’s world of Tinder and texting, do we write and save love letters anymore? Are we more likely to save a screenshot of a text exchange or a box of paper letters from a lover? How might these different ways to store a love letter make us feel? Sociologist Michelle Janning’s Love Letters: Saving Romance in the Digital Age offers a new twist on the study of love letters: what people do with them and whether digital or paper format matters. Through stories, a rich review of past research, and her own survey findings, Janning uncovers whether and how people from different groups (including gender and age) approach their love letter "curatorial practices" in an era when digitization of communication is nearly ubiquitous. She investigates the importance of space and time, showing how our connection to the material world and our attraction to nostalgia matter in actions as seemingly small and private as saving, storing, stumbling upon, or even burning a love letter. Janning provides a framework for understanding why someone may prefer digital or paper love letters, and what that preference says about a person’s access and attachment to powerful cultural values such as individualization, taking time in a hectic world, longevity, privacy, and keeping cherished things in a safe place. Ultimately, Janning contends, the cultural values that tell us how romantic love should be defined are more powerful than the format our love letters take.

    1: The Stuff of Love: The Historical and Cultural Significance of (Saving) Love Letters; 2: The Digitization of Love: Technology and Communication Within Romantic Relationships; 3: Space Matters: Where and How Love Letters are "Curated"; 4: Time Matters: Nostalgia, Preserving Love Letters, and the Social Construction of Time and Memory; 5: Love Letters as Both Individual and Collective: The Public Significance of Private Communications; Methodological Appendix


    Michelle Janning received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. She is Professor of Sociology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She has published numerous book chapters and articles on family relations and material culture, authored the book The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives (2017), and edited the collection Contemporary Parenting and Parenthood: From News Headlines to New Research (2018). She has received a Fulbright Specialist Grant and teaching awards, and her work has appeared in national and international television, radio, Internet, and print outlets, including U.S. News and World Report, Real Simple, The Verge, Author Story, and Positive Parenting Radio. Go to www.michellejanning.com to learn more.

    "In this insightful and enjoyable book, Michelle Janning draws readers into a deeper understanding of love letters as cultural artifacts. Utilizing innovative methods, this timely contribution tells an illuminating story about the ways in which we curate love letters—as reflections of collective values and individual experiences—that will appeal to a wide range of readers."
    —Adina Nack, Professor, Sociology, California Lutheran University

    "Janning has produced a fascinating book exploring the cultural practice of writing, sending, and saving love letters—even in an age when pen and paper have given way to emails and text messages. It is a theoretically engaged, yet accessible, reminder that while expressions of love may take different forms throughout time, they remain an indelible part of our personal lives and romantic experiences."
    —David J. Hutson, Assistant Professor, Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, Abington

    "Love Letters offers a lively read full of fascinating insights, not only about how we think about romantic relationships but also about preservation, place, and nostalgia in everyday life. Janning weaves these insights into a new framework for understanding culture and connection in a time of rapid technological change. And she proves an expert guide to understanding the broader social context shaping our most personal stories."
    —Lyn Spillman, Professor, Sociology, University of Notre Dame

    "If we ever thought, as many of us did, that the digital age would crush romantic messages or make them evanescent, Janning has shown us that we were wrong; love just surfaces in a different form. This is a wonderful book full of rich and surprising details and very suitable for classes. Students can learn a lot about the way culture works by reading about love from diverse positions in the social structure, by differences in sexual orientation, by differences in romantic experience and life histories, and finally through the different gendered perspectives."
    —Pepper Schwartz, Professor, Sociology, University of Washington