What’s love got to do with lit? Very little, scholarship might lead us to believe. Even work shaped by affect theory’s return of emotions to literary study leaves love, forlorn and unrequited, largely alone. Sianne Ngai focuses on the “uglier” feelings (envy, anxiety), Rita Felski on the ways literature enchants and shocks, and Deidre Lynch on the love of literature, not the literature of love. This absence doesn’t reflect love’s prominence as literary motive and subject matter. Enter Jeanne Heuving and Naomi Seidman, who, working from different fields (American avant-garde poetics and modern Jewish literatures, respectively), suggest it is time we stop being embarrassed and start talking about love. They reveal that, far from a sentimental flaw, love is actually a catalyst to literary innovation.

The difficulty of effective biographical criticism presents a primary obstacle to scholarship’s engagement with love. Among...

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