Love for sale: The fantasy and philosophy of modern romantic comedy

Gregory Marc Flaxman, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation argues that the emergence of the modern form of romantic comedy can be understood, both historically and philosophically, as an attempt to resolve the ostensible contradiction between individual desire and communal welfare. Because this genre of “happy love” traditionally links romance to social harmony, the emergence of the modern subject—a subject driven by desire, sustained by the idea of freedom, and underwritten by the forces of capitalism—compels new narrative means of achieving this formula. In this respect, I argue that this modern genre can be understood along the lines of Hegel's moral dialectic, according to which romance is equated with the education, and the discipline, of its participants. Thus, this dissertation consists in the synoptic examination of this ideological task in modern romantic comedy, from the genre' emergence in the anti-romanticism of Hegel and Jane Austen, where the love is tantamount to the production of conscience and the good subject, to its Americanization in the framework of classical Hollywood cinema, where discipline is weighed against (and occasionally trumped by) new forms of self-expression.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Motion Pictures

Recommended Citation

Flaxman, Gregory Marc, "Love for sale: The fantasy and philosophy of modern romantic comedy" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3095880.