Sometimes we can forget that people carried on writing about love after the death of Queen Victoria. So, let’s have a look at twentieth century literature, which gives us many different views on love, and loses many of the certainties we often found in Victorian literature. In doing so, it provides a much less judgemental view of different kinds of love.
You will find a large number of plays with love as their theme, but do not forget the late twentieth century plays of Sarah Kane, like Blasted, Skin and Crave, or Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. You will find that Arcadia gives you several different kinds of love to ponder on…
When looking at novels, you will find some thoughtful writing about homosexual love, look at Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, Billy Budd by Herman Melville and Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. For heterosexual love in its many forms and complications look at The Go Between by L P Hartley, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.
We can get an interesting view of unrequited love in some of the poems of W B Yeats, particularly Broken Dreams. Look at the early twentieth century love poems of Edna St Vincent Millay and then our current poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy and the rather sad, not quite in love, poems of Phillip Larkin. Don’t forget poems of lost love, like Funeral Blues by W H Auden, the odd but charming love poems of E. E. Cummings and the Mersey Poets like Roger McGough.
You may well have your own favourites when it comes to twentieth century literature, so don’t be shy, go back to them. Give your old favourites a second read, jot down some short, apt quotations and remember that you can refer to them in the exam if you wish, and, of course, if they fit in with the question!