Love and Language Ilan Stavans, Verónica Albin

Publication date:
16 Nov 2007
Yale University Press
288 pages: 178 x 140 x 24mm
15 color illus.

Our understanding of love today is not the same as the one espoused by Plato in the fourth century BCE. Nor is it the same as the courtly love of the Renaissance, or love as defined by Stendhal or Proust or Freud. In this utterly original book, cultural critic Ilan Stavans engages in an exhilarating dialogue with Verónica Albin about love and its various   manifestations. Roaming through millennia, across geographical boundaries, and from culture to culture, Stavans surprises us again and again with new perspectives on love—how we conceive of it, how it differs from place to place, what roles it plays in people’s lives, how it appears in art and literature.


An engaging and provocative thinker, Stavans draws on a rich multiheritage background to probe his topic and to call attention to the differences between languages. As Albin observes, Stavans is “at once an incisive thinker and a powerful storyteller.” The scope of his erudition is dazzling—he readily quotes from history, literature, and Scripture, but ponders with equal care the content of telenovas and Walt Disney cartoons. He uses dialogue as a path to the truth about love, and readers who accompany Stavans on this path will encounter a wealth of unanticipated insights into this most ethereal of emotions.


Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College. He is editor in chief of the four-volume Encyclopedia Latina: History, Culture, and Society in the United States and author of The Hispanic Condition and Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language, among many other publications. He lives in Amherst, MA. Verónica Albin is senior lecturer of Spanish and translation, Rice University, and a regular contributor to Translation Journal. She lives in Bellaire, TX.

“In this lively, erudite conversation Stavans ranges over literature, etymology, philosophy, mythology, and sexuality. The heart of his investigation is how language is used to convey emotion, and how literature is 'a form of empathy' and 'inspired testimony' that connects us with the human experience. Stavans generously shares not only his considerable learning, but his own experience, making this book a unique exploration of love and language.”—Fred R. Shapiro, Editor, Yale Book of Quotations