An eminent scholar unearths the captivating history of the two-lobed heart symbol from scripture and tapestry to T-shirts and text messages, shedding light on how we have expressed love since antiquity
The symmetrical, exuberant heart is everywhere: it gives shape to candy, pendants, the frothy milk on top of a cappuccino, and much else. How can we explain the ubiquity of what might be the most recognizable symbol in the world?
In The Amorous Heart, Marilyn Yalom tracks the heart metaphor and heart iconography across two thousand years, through Christian theology, pagan love poetry, medieval painting, Shakespearean drama, Enlightenment science, and into the present. She argues that the symbol reveals a tension between love as romantic and sexual on the one hand, and as religious and spiritual on the other. Ultimately, the heart symbol is a guide to the astonishing variety of human affections, from the erotic to the chaste and from the unrequited to the conjugal.
About the Author
Marilyn Yalom is a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, and the author of A History of the Wife, among other books. She lives in Palo Alto, CA, with her husband, Irvin.
"From Christian theology to erotic poetry, Shakespearean drama to contemporary heart symbolism, The Amorous Heart is a fascinating history of the heart as symbol, icon and inspiration."—Mercury News (San Jose, CA)
"Yalom's writing is always clear and thoughtful, and at times (in congruence with her subject) it verges on the mildly frolicsome."—Wall Street Journal
"A charming and curious account of the heart in Western culture."—Times Literary Supplement
"This history of the heart will woo romantics and iconographers alike."—Booklist
"Dynamic... Yalom's book is a scholarly and fresh approach to art history."—Publishers Weekly
"Fascinating and enlightening... Yalom takes us from the Ancient Egyptians (who believed the organ was the seat of amorous feelings) to the kitsch and commercialism of Valentine's Day and the advent of the emoji. We heart this book!"—Indulge Magazine
"[An] illuminating study... combines an impressive depth and reach of knowledge with an engaging style that serves the popular topic well."—Kirkus
"A fascinating journey into the meanings of the heart... full of references to a rich range of literature, opera, art, and everyday objects that together form an enlightening read."—Wellesley Magazine
"For anyone whose heart has ever palpitated in love or devotion, this is a thumping romp through the history of hearts--in love, literature, illuminated manuscripts, and valentine cards."—Christopher de Hamel, author of Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts
"Lovers have histories; so do hearts. Sprouting in vines, burned in fires, frozen in icy jewels--the hearts in Marilyn Yalom's new book seem in sympathy with Yalom herself: they will their secrets--not to just anyone, but to her, such a warm writer, yes, they will confide."—Alexander Nemerov, author of Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine
"Another tour de force by one of America's leading cultural historians. Marilyn Yalom's account of the heart's symbolization as the seat of passion takes us from antiquity to the Middle Ages to valentine kitsch of our own age. An exquisite book full of historical surprises and revelations."—Robert Pogue Harrison, author of Juvenescence and The Dominion of the Dead