Is French really the language of love? Stanford scholar Marilyn Yalom explores the topic in her latest book “How the French Invented Love.” Part memoir and part literary history, Yalom discusses why the French have championed themselves as the ultimate experts in love for centuries, and how they’ve kept the flames of romance burning to the present day.

A History of Love (via French Literature) 26 November,2012forum

Marilyn Yalom, author of "How the French Invented Love: Nine Hundred Years of Passion and Romance," and senior scholar at Stanford University's Clayman Institute for Gender Research; prior works include "A History of the Breast," "A History of the Wife" and "Birth of the Chess Queen"

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Own and have often recommended Marilyn Yalom’s books, History of the Breast, and History of the Wife.

    Having been raised in a French style home where I was taught by my wise Aunt that French seduction is bound tightly with what the French call plaisir or the art of creating, and relishing pleasure of all kinds, I appreciate how the French handle the subject of sexuality and how sensuality is found in all things French from food, art, music,architecture, gardens, and clothing. Seems only fitting they would have the art of sexual pleasure down to an art.

    Love how the French and even San Franciscans just don’t have the puritan mindset or love hate relationship with sexuality that so many Americans have. Instead they see sex/sensuality as a need as important and eating and sleeping. It’s why I believe a wise man who can seduce my mind can then seduce my body.

    Has Ms Yalom read La Seduction: How the French Play the Game of Life by Elaine Sciolino?

  • Peter

    A chicken-or-egg question: Does the French language sound romantic to us because we associate it with a culture we already think of as romantic, or is it the sound of the language that makes French culture seem that much more romantic to us?

  • Curious if your guest can define the differences between “love” and “lust”? Most often in American affairs, it becomes an issue of lusting for another sex partner but love is not necessarily involved.

  • After being interested in English history and the Tudors, leading to the reign of Elizabeth I; I have become interested in some of the powerful women in France during the same historical period. In France women were not allowed to hold the throne in their own name and queens were often relegated to the background and producing children only. There are several women who within this structure did wield power. Anne of France, Louise of Savoy, Anne of Brittany, Catherine de Medici. Can you comment on the history of female political power in France?

  • Diana Alstad

    Adultery was not initially acceptable in the French bourgeoisie. Its acceptance was of aristocratic origin, while 18th-century bourgeois love and marriage were highly sentimentalized (as in Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise). In Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons, the love-struck prey Mme de Tourvel represents bourgeois passion victimized by the two calculating aristocratic accomplices, count Valmont and the marquise de Merteuil.
    But aristocratic women’s adultery was also more censured and dangerous than men’s, and had to be much more discrete. Laclos critiques this by portraying Merteuil as unique and far superior to the don juan Valmont — as a self-made, brilliant pre-feminist heroine consciously challenging male sexual inequality and norms. Mertueil was the most hideously punished at the end–proving Laclos’ point: Aristocratic women’s freedom depended largely on the husband’s permission, but legally and through social censure and gossip, they were still at risk, even of prison–also as with Mme du Chatelet and Voltaire. (David Bodanis’ Passionate Minds on the long, complex Chatelet/Voltaire relationship is excellent.)

  • trite

    Suggest Ms. Yalom read the article in The Guardian today on sexism in French politics:

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