The dangerous lover has haunted our culture for over two hundred years; English, American, and European literature is permeated with his erotic presence. The Dangerous Lover takes seriously the ubiquity of the brooding romantic hero—his dark past, his remorseful and rebellious exile from comfortable everyday living. Deborah Lutz traces the recent history of this figure, through the melancholy iconoclasm of the Romantics, the lost soul redeemed by love of the Brontës, and the tormented individualism of twentieth-century love narratives. Arguing for this character’s central influence not only in literature but also in the history of ideas, this book places the dangerous lover firmly within the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, the Modernism of Georg Lukács, and Roland Barthes’s theories on love and longing. Working with canonical authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Charles Maturin, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde, and also with non-canonical texts such as contemporary romance, The Dangerous Lover combines a lyrical, essayistic style with a depth of inquiry that raises questions about the mysteries of desire, death, and eroticism.
The Dangerous Lover is the first book-length study of this pervasive literary hero; it also challenges the tendency of sophisticated philosophical readings of popular narratives and culture to focus on male-coded genres. In its conjunction of high and low literary forms, this volume explores new historical and cultural framings for female-coded popular narratives.