Signs of Reading and the Subject of Love in Stendhal’s De l’amour

Stendhal’s De l’amour (1822) attempts to describe and classify the experience of romantic love. I show that love is a semiotic structure in De l’amour, and that the lover portrayed there becomes a reader through the process of crystallization – the motor of romantic love in Stendhal’s analysis. The lover’s fundamental dilemma is a negotiation of the semiosis of crystallization. The lack of stable signs of love in this semiotic system creates profound consequences for the lover, revealing the repetitive, mechanistic structure of doubt in his reading, and destabilizing the binary structures upon which he typically relies for securing the subject position. De l’amour does more than portray and analyze the lover’s fundemantal dilemma: it enacts it textually, thereby transforming a discourse on love into a crystallizing reading of love. (ANH)

Hunter, Angela N.
Volume 2008 Spring-Summer; 36(3-4): 205-20.