In today’s world of Tinder and texting, do we write and save love letters anymore? Are we more likely to save a screen shot 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. Her work fits within larger academic questions about the sociology of emotions, how culture works, the importance of objects in social relations, and the significance of privilege in everyday life.
1: The Stuff of Love: A Brief History of the Cultural Significance of 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
Editors: Richard H. Robbins, SUNY at Plattsburgh and Luis A. Vivanco, University of Vermont
This series is dedicated to innovative, unconventional ways to connect undergraduate students and their lived concerns about our social world to the power of social science ideas and evidence. We seek to publish titles that use anthropology to help students understand how they benefit from exposing their own lives and activities to the power of anthropological thought and analysis. Our goal is to help spark social science imaginations and, in doing so, open new avenues for meaningful thought and action.
Books proposed for this series should pose questions and problems that speak to the complexities and dynamism of modern life, connecting cutting edge research in exciting and relevant topical areas with creative pedagogy. We seek writing that is clear and accessible, yet not simplistic. The series has three primary projects:
The Anthropology of Stuff
This project invites proposals for 100 to 120 page books devoted to tracing the biographies and social lives of commodities that illuminate for students the network of people, institutions, and activities that create their material world. The series already has successful titles on milk, coffee, lycra, counterfeit goods, bicycles, Wal-Mart, and alcohol, as well as a forthcoming title on seafood. We seek books that:
Anthropology and Civic Engagement
This project invites proposals for 100 to 120 page books that examine anthropology’s historical, contemporary, or potential involvement in civic affairs, contributions to key public debates, and/or engagement with diverse notions of citizenship and civic participation. Its goal is to illuminate for students how anthropological concepts, methods, and approaches can create powerful insights about critical social issues, while at the same time providing useful models for civic engagement for the construction of a more equitable society. We seek books that:
This project invites proposals for 150-350 page introductory texts that integrate high impact teaching and learning practices with treatment of specific topical areas that are the focus on undergraduate courses in anthropology. These specific topical areas could include Anthropology of Religion, Economic Anthropology, Political Anthropology, Anthropology of Food, Environmental Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality, etc. The texts should examine the development of the field and provide coverage of key concepts and theories. At the same time, they should integrate high-impact educational practices into the structure of the text and its features. These practices could include:
If you have a proposal that you believe would fit into the series in one of its three project areas, or if you have any questions about the series, please contact Richard Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Luis Vivanco at email@example.com.