An eminent scholar unearths the captivating history of the two-lobed heart symbol from scripture and tapestry to T-shirts and text messages, shedding light on how we have expressed love since antiquity
The symmetrical, exuberant heart is everywhere: it gives shape to candy, pendants, the frothy milk on top of a cappuccino, and much else. How can we explain the ubiquity of what might be the most recognizable symbol in the world?
In The Amorous Heart, Marilyn Yalom tracks the heart metaphor and heart iconography across two thousand years, through Christian theology, pagan love poetry, medieval painting, Shakespearean drama, Enlightenment science, and into the present. She argues that the symbol reveals a tension between love as romantic and sexual on the one hand, and as religious and spiritual on the other. Ultimately, the heart symbol is a guide to the astonishing variety of human affections, from the erotic to the chaste and from the unrequited to the conjugal.
Marilyn Yalom is a senior scholar at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, and the author of A History of the Wife, among other books. She lives in Palo Alto, CA, with her husband, Irvin.