Historian Katherine Aiken Examines the Heart of Valentine's Day
Friday, February 10 2012
By Donna Emert
MOSCOW, Idaho – In her Feb. 14 presentation, “An Historian Looks at Valentine’s Day: The Interplay of Dollars and Cupids,” historian Katherine Aiken promises to examine the left and right ventricles that are the heart of the modern American Valentine’s Day: love and money.
Aiken, dean of the University of Idaho College of Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences, will present her lecture at 12:30 p.m., on Tuesday, Feb. 14 in the Whitewater Room of the University of Idaho Commons. The lecture is free and open to the public.
The talk will examine the celebration of romantic love and affection in terms of American culture, with an eye on how advertising and consumerism have influenced gender roles and the meaning of romantic love.
“Americans have made Valentine’s Day their own because we are capitalists and entrepreneurs, and there’s money involved, and because Americans have been at the cutting edge of changes about relationships and how we value and express them,” said Aiken. “The modern Valentine’s Day reflects that, especially in terms of what we call ‘romantic love,’ and how that is expressed in modern society.”
While Valentine’s Day originally focused on the deeply personal experiences of love, romance and intimacy, commercialization of the holiday has changed the focus dramatically, Aiken suggests.
“I would argue that what commercialization has done is made Valentine’s Day less personal,” says Aiken. “People don’t convey their own sentiments and emotions, instead they buy their sentiments. You can send ‘hugs and kisses’ and a bouquet of flowers whose name conveys a certain sentiment. It’s kind of like Christmas: We’ve forgotten the actual sentiments and emotions in exchange for focusing on the commercial elements.”
The obligation to express love with just the right gift, card, or other prepackaged gesture also has created a sense of obligation, and accompanying anxiety, she argues. “It’s stressful, especially for adolescents,” she said. “Boys and girls feel pressured to give just the right thing. Others feel pressured because they’re not in a relationship.”
Aiken’s talk is part of the humanities lecture series, Turning of the Wheel: the Interplay of the Unique and the Universal, part of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Malcolm M. Renfrew Interdisciplinary Colloquim.
For more information on the Turning of the Wheel Lecture Series, visit www.webpages.uidaho.edu/humanities/index.htm
Serving nearly 3,800 students through 11 departments and numerous programs, The College of Letters Arts and Social Sciences is the largest division of the University of Idaho and the academic bedrock of the University. For more information on this and other CLASS programs and curriculum, visit www.uidaho.edu/class/
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