Where Love Happens: Topographies of Emotions in Nineteenth-Century European Literature

The project  aims to demonstrate how the historicised paradigm of romantic love was affected by spaces and places. Combining the fields of philosophy, affect theory, literary criticism, and print culture, it bridges literature with the history of emotions, as it explores the transformative powers of love in nineteenth-century European culture.

William Dyce, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Emile Levy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons James Tissot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A series of recent publications argue that love is changing. Indeed, so many different conceptions of Romantic love circulate in the academic discourse that nobody seems to speak of the same thing. This leads us to the following questions:

  1. If a genuine and consistent conception of love does exist in Romanticism, how can it be defined?
  2. What is paradigmatic about the idea of Romantic love and if so, how did it come about?
  3. Has the “background picture of love” really lasted without major changes since the nineteenth century, or is there a more complex history of love to be written?
  4. How did places and spaces – space on printed pages, topoi in popular literature, touristic literarysites – affect the canonisation of Romantic love in the nineteenth century?

We address these questions in four individual, yet closely interlocking, parts: Philosophies of Love, Pages of Love, Sites of Love, and Languages of Love.


  1. Philosophies of Love - Animal Amans: Günther Anders’s Philosophy of Love
    Alexander Knopf (AK)
    In the project’s first phase,  AK will provide an account of the emergence of the theory of Romantic love in German, English, and French philosophy and literature. In the second part, he will reconstruct the philosophy of love developed by Günther Anders (1902-1992). By combining Anders’s observations from his seminal book Lieben gestern. Notizen zur Geschichte des Fühlens and the fragments of the history of feeling scattered throughout his posthumous papers, AK aims to give a more complete account of it than Anders himself achieved in his own lifetime.
  2. Pages of Love -  Topoi of Love and the Urgencies of Print Culture in the Nineteenth Century
    Maria Damkjær (MD)
    MD’s project takes the topic of romantic love in a book-historical direction and shows what happened when the Romantic conception of love met mass print culture. While canonical novels remained expensive and therefore exclusive throughout the nineteenth century, popular magazines like the Family Herald and the London Reader achieved circulations in their millions. What narratives of love did they contribute to the popular imagination? Where - in what places, pages, and corners - did they imagine that love took root? Did they democratize romance as a business model?

  3. Sites of Love - Where Love Took Place: Literary Tourism in the Nineteenth Century
    Lene Østermark-Johansen
    This project deals with the emergence of a literary tourism in Europe, based on locations for famous love stories, drawing readers abroad, alone, à deux, or in groups, in pursuit of literary love. It examines the ways in which reading of love begets travel in a merging of fiction and reality. The project revolves around the effect and affect of literature, how it moves us, emotionally and physically, making us leave home in search of sites where characters in poetry and fiction experienced love. The project spans many aspects of culture: high and low, visual and print culture, as it seeks to map the dynamic and creative topography of a European literature of love.

  4. Languages of Love – New Technologies as Languages of Romantic Experience in Nineteenth-Century European Culture
    Joanna Beaufoy (JB)
    JB’s project wonders whether emotions of loving were staged, sparked or sustained by material conditions —both designed and accidental— made possible through lighting technologies. The revolutions that gas and electric lighting brought to how we lived, felt, and loved gave writers and designers new tools to structure and inspire romance. What were the functions of lighting in writing about emotions at the time? Did they change with technology? How does noticing what was lit up, and what was kept in shadow, help us to define Romanticism’s conception of love?












Name Title Phone E-mail
Beaufoy, Joanna PhD Fellow   E-mail
Damkjær, Maria Associate Professor +4535330076 E-mail
Knopf, Alexander Postdoc +4535332577 E-mail
Østermark-Johansen, Lene Professor +4535328583 E-mail


Velux foundation

Funded by the Velux Foundations

Project period: 1 May 2021 to 30 April 2025
PI: Professor Lene Østermark-Johansen

Call for papers: The plasticity of emotions

See call for papers for the conference The plasticity of emotions - Günther Anders’s contribution to the history of feelings, 20 - 23 June 2023.