Knowledge of love: narratives of romance told by 12-year-old children
Gender and Education
This article reports research on young people's conceptualisations of love and romance through a gender perspective. The data are stories written by twelve-year-old girls and boys in Norway who were asked to fantasise about their future love life. Their narratives are explored through discourse analysis and semiotics and analysed within a sociological framework. The article has two major aims. The first is to contribute to the methodology of collecting essays written by young people to gain
... people to gain knowledge of their conceptions of adult life. The second aim is to offer new findings on the specific subject of romantic love in contemporary society, by describing how to do love in young people's fiction. Knowledge of love: Tales of romance told by twelve-year-old children ... My girlfriend and I had planned to go on a safari in Africa, but of course we could not afford it. I was working in the woods, but I was also on the junior national cross-country skiing team. I had one major goal. It was to win the Olympics...Then the Olympics came. When I was standing at the starting line, I thought: "Imagine if I win the Olympics. Then my girlfriend and I can go on a safari."...I did it. It felt like flying when I was standing on the top of the podium and got the gold medal. I got a check worth 20 000 pounds. When we got home, we packed...The next day we went on the safari. We rented a car and equipment...We were 10 metres away from the car when suddenly a big male lion came running out of a bush. It threw itself onto my girlfriend. I tried to tease it towards me, and finally I made it happen. I had brought a jungle knife with me which I tried to kill it with...I whipped the knife around me, and finally I caught his throat. I couldn't believe my own eyes when the male lion was lying dead. My girlfriend kissed me and said "You are my hero, you saved my life." I was speechless. I thought: "Now that I have the chance, maybe I should ask if she will marry me." But before I was able to say it, she had asked. And of course I said yes. We married at home in Norway...We had children later. The above story was written by a twelve-year-old boy about what his love life would be like when he was eighteen years old. His story and 54 other stories written by girls and boys of the same age were used in an investigation of various conceptions of romantic love in contemporary society. Aims The article has two major aims. The first is to offer methodological contributions. It discusses theoretical frameworks for studying love and reflects upon the method of asking children to write essays as a means of generating knowledge about conceptions of adult life. With the exception of some contributions by Halldén (1997), little has been written in English about using this research methodology. Further, to my knowledge, no studies have used essays written by younger people to learn more about the love lives of adults. This method reveals new insights into the social construction of romance from children who are just beginning to learn about romance and the role of love in family life. The second aim is to present new findings on the specific subject of conceptions of romantic love in contemporary society. An empirical study of the contents of the concept of love describes doing love in young people's narratives. Although love and 4 intimacy is an expanding field of research, few scholars have inquired into the minds of young people in order to produce new insights about their conceptions of adult love life. Using tools from the tradition of discourse and narrative analysis, this article aims to identify gendered storylines and subject positions in stories written by children on this topic. Analyses of the texts within a presumed hegemonic heterosexual frame of discourse revealed powerful and compound gendered mechanisms. Theoretical perceptions of love In the last three decades, researchers have focused on several notable themes of love, and other related themes. Beck and Beck-Gernsheim (1995) and Bauman (2003) examined how forces within modernity have worked to undermine the conditions for love. Viewing love within historical and social constructionist frameworks, although with different approaches, Luhmann (1982) and Giddens (1992) have examined how different forms of love have been constructed throughout history. Scholars studying love from a gender perspective have produced several noteworthy empirical studies.