Department of English
University of California at Santa Barbara
Second speaker, Workshop on Literary History and the Brain
The Politics of Love: Propaganda and Subversion in Aphra Behn's Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister
The common theme of the forum on Historicizing Cognition is that a cognitive
analysis can help us understand literary texts in their historical contexts.
In this talk I examine how the first volume of Aphra Behn's Love-Letters
Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1683) utilizes the psychology of
love in an unexpected manner to legitimate and to distract attention from
Charles II's unconstitutional grapb for arbitrary power in the early 1680s.
The story draws inferences from the source domain of passionate amorous
attraction, conflict, and cooperation, as well as from the absolutist political
ideology of the time. Through a creative conceptual blend, it achieves
a subtle and diverting ideological payoff we might call amorous absolutism.
By figuring the king as the people's lover, she elicits the inference that
he deserves our faithful and passionate devotion beyond all constraints
of law and parliament, in effect supporting Charles II's attempt to establish
an absolutist state. At the same time, the conceptual blend of politics
and passionate love carries the destabilizing implications of mutuality,
revocability, and fungibility, implicitly legitimating dissatisfaction,
deposition, and replacement.
Vitae (use Back command to return)