Amherst students already think, at least subliminally, about valentines most days, thanks to their dining hall. The building was named for a Mr. and Mrs. Valentine, after all. Samuel, class of 1866, specialized in naval law. Eliza came from a family of fire insurers. As thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day, one hopes they sailed on a sea of love, and kept the flame alive.
The dining hall always embraces its namesake day (see below for tasty details, including a cupcake decorating station!). But Valentine’s Day goes beyond Valentine. This year, we set out to explore how love is celebrated—and, this being Amherst, analyzed—across the whole campus. Our investigation turned up a class on Hollywood’s movie kisses, the Beneski’s ode to how dinosaurs flirted, a “Galentine’s Day” event inspired by the TV show Parks and Recreation and much more.
So here are our findings: consider it our valentine to you.
The Office of Communications
In the Classroom
This Poem’s for You
Over the years, Amherst has offered many courses that look at love: “Law and Love” (LJST-349) with Martha Umphrey; “The Age of Chivalry, 1000–1500” (HIST-225) with Jun Hee Cho, which considers the (alas, flawed) idea of courtly love; and “The Literature of Love,” Maria Heim’s religion seminar on romantic, erotic, divine and ethical love in the literatures of classical India.
Heim says the syllabus features “the most stunning romantic poetry you’ll ever read.” For proof, she sent us these lines from the Amarushataka (Hundred Poems of King Amaru), from the eighth century, translated by Martha Selby:
She’s in the house.
She’s at turn after turn.
She’s behind me.
She’s in front of me.
She’s in my bed.
She’s on path after path,
And I’m weak from want of her.
there is no reality for me
other than she she
she she she she
in the whole of the reeling world.
And philosophers talk about Oneness.
Keep Them Guessing—in a Good Way
In “Social Psychology” (PSYC 220) this semester, the students are reading an article from the journal Psychological Science titled “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not…” with the intriguing subtitle “Uncertainty Can Increase Romantic Attraction.” Catherine Sanderson, the Manwell Family Professor in Life Sciences, says the article notes the importance of creating excitement and novelty in a relationship: “We’ll discuss specific strategies for doing so in class—such as traveling, trying new foods, creating physiological arousal (scary movie! roller coaster! bungee jumping!). These strategies work to increase attraction for potential romantic partners and maintain love in longer-term relationships.”
A Kiss Is Not Just a Kiss
In “Intimate Film Cultures” (ENGL-383/FAMS-360), “we’re beginning by considering the function of eros and cinephilia (the love of film) in Surrealism,” notes Joshua Guilford, assistant professor of English in film and media studies. “But we will go on to consider, for instance, representations of kissing in classical Hollywood, and the ways in which love functions as a normative/constraining social aspiration in ‘feminine’ genres such as the melodrama.”
It’s a Date! Sort Of.
“Are you interested in showcasing your talents and adorable qualities? Want a date for Valentine’s Day? Participate in GlobeMed’s Annual Date Auction! In a supportive and welcoming environment, put on a quick performance and swipe right for love.” That’s how Amherst’s GlobeMed chapter describes its latest fundraiser. (GlobeMed’s 60 college chapters each connect to one health organization around the world.) BTW, this is all in good fun: there’s no weird pressure to actually go on a date with the winner.
Thursday, Feb. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Powerhouse
On That Note
GlobeMed is also selling notes you can personalize and a selection of candy to send to your BAE, BFF or anyone else, to arrive PDQ on Valentine’s Day in their mailbox. All proceeds go to Heart and Sole Africa, a nonprofit in Rwanda.
Feb. 7–14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m in Valentine Atrium
The power of love endures with "Share the Love" at the Powerhouse, as the Employee Council supplies appreciation cards for staff members to send to one another. There will be sweet treats, raffle drawings and love songs playing too.
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2–4 p.m., at the Powerhouse
Valentine’s at Val
As the next best thing to breakfast in bed on Feb. 14, the servers at Valentine Dining Hall will be making fresh-squeezed orange juice and firing up five made-to-order-omelet stations. Lunch boasts a fancy cupcake decorating station. And dinner—can you say heart-shaped ravioli? There’s an elaborate cookie decorating contest too. And as they enter the hall that evening, each student will be given a rose.
For Book Lovers
The LitFest PreFest, sponsored by student interns at The Common, is billed as a giveaway for book lovers: students can get books by Junot Díaz, Min Jin Lee and Carmen Maria Machado, this year’s LitFest headliners. Activities include literary trivia, word games, poem parodies and interactive questions (like “Who was your first literary crush?”).
Wednesday, Feb. 14, from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Frost Library
Transcribe History for Frederick Douglass's 200th Birthday
Although Douglass was born into slavery, and never knew his birthdate, he chose to celebrate it on Valentine's Day. This year, ColoredConventions.org has organized a transcribe-a-thon on the Freedmen's Bureau Papers, and the Writing Center is hosting a volunteer site. The idea is to peer at 19th-century handwriting, make sure you know what it says, and type it up. You can transcribe a page or two (or twenty), enjoy a slice of birthday cake, and help to transcribe history! As Douglass said: "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free."
Wednesday, Feb. 14, 1-4 p.m., at Frost Library First Floor
Love at the Loeb
At the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, the staff is warming up for Valentine’s Day by jotting down what they love about their jobs. Here’s a feel-good sampler:
From Richard Aronson ’69, health professions advisor and assistant dean: “I love to see so many students at this special college who themselves are kind and caring people, and who articulate to me that they place a very high value on love—in all its various manifestations—as essential to making this world better.”
From Stephanie Hockman, program director for Careers In Business and Finance: “I love seeing the lightbulb come on for students when they grasp a concept or find a true passion for their career search, and then watching the wattage of that lightbulb grow as they pursue their careers post-graduation.”
At the Museums
The Mead: Happy Galentine’s Day!
This idea bloomed from an episode of Parks and Recreation, when Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, declares Feb. 13 “Galentine’s Day” and hosts a brunch that pays tribute to female friendships. “What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year,” says Leslie. “Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
At Amherst, Galentine’s Day kicks off at the Mead Art Museum, where all self-identified women are invited for waffles and informal conversation inspired by a new exhibition, Fragmented Identities: The Gendered Roles of Women in Art Through the Ages. Women who make up the Mead’s curatorial, education and programming departments will help their guests take “a closer look at some of our favorite gals in the collection.”
Tuesday, Feb 13, from 8:30 to 10 a.m at the Mead
The Women’s and Gender Center will be celebrating sisterhood and platonic friendships among people of all genders. On Galentine’s Day, you can make a card or write a love note to your friends (and eat cookies too). As the event listing says: “It’s meant to be a fun day and an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how important friendship and love are outside of romantic relationships.”
Tuesday, Feb. 13, from 10 to 5 p.m., at the WGC at Keefe Campus Center
The Beneski: Dinosaurs Had Their Own Match.com
When we asked Fred Venne, museum educator at the Beneski Museum of Natural History, about the subject of love, he made no bones about deferring to future paleontologist Matthew Inabinett ’18. Matthew then mused about dinosaur courtship skills:
“Dinosaurs were subject to ‘mutual sexual selection,’ in which all individuals develop these flashy display structures like big frills and horns, each engaged in an evolutionary extravaganza of flirtation. The next time you look at the frill of a Triceratops, the plates of a Stegosaurus, the head crests of many of the duckbill dinosaurs, the strange features you’re seeing are essentially some of the biggest, most striking and most effective dating profiles in the history of life on Earth.”
Happy Valentine’s Day, Amherst! Go celebrate with heart.