Limerence
May 13, 2011 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Is Sappho's so called "Ode to Anactoria" the first literary reference to limerence? Coined in a book by psychology professor Dorothy Tennov in 1979 and soon covered by Time Magazine, limerence involves "intrusive thinking about the object of your passionate desire". Is it just a fancy term for callow infatuation or the unrequited love behind many great novels and young suicides? Whatever its reality, or corrosive effect, Tennov believed that central to limerence is "the desire for limerence itself".
posted by joannemullen (34 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
This poem is also familiar to Latin students through Catullus's translation.
posted by stopgap at 6:19 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, limerence is another word for infatuated passionate love: the crazy, head-over-heels, Romeo-and-Juliet style love. It was what Plato talked about in Phaedrus as "divine madness."
posted by shivohum at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2011


ur-emo?
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:40 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Limerence is like sticking your dick in an electrical socket. You know it's bad for you, but it feels so good you can't stop doing it. In the end, it becomes an end to itself.
posted by Eideteker at 6:44 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you can work the phrase "limerent object" into the poem you're slowly composing on your bathroom mirror for your dream-beloved after your morning shower every day, you might be a limerent.
posted by steef at 6:48 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Limerence is like sticking your dick in an electrical socket.

Er, I don't know if you phrased it stupidly like that to troll for an anti-boyzone kneejerk from MeFi, but I don't quite think you're getting limerence, which is more a whole-body thing than a "dick" thing (particularly since most of the examples of it in literature involve women).

Anyhow. I've always loved the "I am faded like summer grass and may also die soon" line at the end (substitute translation of choice) of that fragment.

It's one of the eternal tragedies of literature that so little of Sappho's poetry remains, and so much of what one can actually dig up in libraries or on the web is godawful Victorian-era English translations that distort its meaning badly.
posted by aught at 6:53 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


<insert limerick about limerence that I'm too asleep to make up here>
posted by DU at 7:00 AM on May 13, 2011


I suspect that what is suggested by the term, written by a prof of psychology, is now explained by hormones etc racing about our bodies.
In passing: I knew the lady who developed the term and its use and she did not like men (which is not to say she was gay), and had worked at the same university where she was at the time she published this work.
posted by Postroad at 7:00 AM on May 13, 2011


This concept that doctors call "limerence"
Is a kind of emotional immanence.
That twinge in the heart
Is in all kinds of art,
But not, I suppose, in "Deliverance."
posted by Bromius at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2011 [28 favorites]


insert limerick about limerence that I'm too asleep to make up here

Now, limerence (the subject of this limerick)
Is defined by mefite Eidetik-
Er as the feeling
(So strangely appealing)
Like a socket in which you stick in your dick.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:11 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket.There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket. There once was a girl from Nantucket.
posted by pracowity at 7:22 AM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


That was mean.
posted by Skygazer at 7:24 AM on May 13, 2011


Limerence is like sticking your dick in an electrical socket. You know it's bad for you, but it feels so good you can't stop doing it. In the end, it becomes an end to itself.

wat
posted by empath at 7:25 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the Victorians can pervert it into their idiom, I can pervert it into our contemporary mode:

If I even believed in god you’d be like a goddess
to me so I tag along with you whenever I can
just to hear you talk on your iPhone and laugh.
    Your voice makes my heart

palpitate, especially when you let me put my arm
around your waist. I’m a freaking mess: I’m acting like
a moron and I get tongue-tied and my skin itches
    and breaks out; I zone out and

can’t remember anything & sometimes I can’t
even hear anything but blood rushing in my ears.
I sweat too much and shake like a damn fool. Just
    look at me here all pale and

fading out like suburban lawns in August. When
I feel like this I know I seem completely nuts.
I feel like I could die any day now, any second,
    but somehow for you I keep going.
posted by aught at 7:27 AM on May 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


I feel like I could die any day now, any second,
but somehow for you I keep going poking you on Facebook.

posted by Skygazer at 7:51 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


hmmm... definitely infected by this "limerence" thing...

read the wiki page, need more information... basically just need to know whether i am completed eff'd here? at times the LO is extremely reciprocating, others completely aloof...

haaa but when she does reciprocate i feel like i can accomplish anything...

also i do not believe i've ever felt this way about another person (i am a 30yo male who has been in one serious LTR with a woman i definitely loved), but i definitely remember being prone to infatuation as an adolescent/young adult.

i have no idea why i am so strongly "attracted" to this current girl (and by attracted i mean as the wiki describes, all facets, overlooking any shortcomings, ecstacy when with her, constant self doubt when not).

i find this troubling as it is the opposite of previous "flings" (which tended to be short-lived because of lack of interest on my part). but obviously also find it incredible. i am surprised by how forthcoming i am with this girl, as this is very rare for me (indeed, i've told her things in a month that i have not shared with others ever). it is thus crystal clear to her how i feel, which concerns me as i do not want to drive her away (haa, i should forward her the wiki link and be like, "i have this, but i think it can be really good, an no pressure or anything cause i promise i'm not going to kill myself when you ultimately break things off")

she seems to think highly of me, but i feel like the strength of my feelings for her are crazy and the worst thing about me, at least from her pov... while i acknowledge this as a possibility, i am not interested in "toning it down" or pretending like i am not as interested in her as i really am, despite fearing it may ultimately lead to the end of her interest in me...

the one thing that struck me about the wiki page that i disagreed with (and maybe i'm reading it wrong) was an implication that the ultimate desired "end" is to somehow "possess" this person (or have her "commit" to me). while when she does do things that signal reciprocation/commitment i am elated, desire for that feeling is not driving the "limerence." rather, the "limerence" is a thing to itself, and seems entirely about her... i feel like i just want *her* to be happy/well, and at least cognitively am sort of hoping for her to actually end things, as the emotional rollercoaster is exhausting.

this whole situation is ridiculous. i am the object of a cruel joke, yet feel more "alive" than ever and wouldn't trade it for anything. fwiw, i often write comments to posts and rarely ever submit them. (i feel like all of the benefits of writing out a comment are realized before actually hitting "post" and thus don't bother). the only reason i am about to submit this is because it is an anonymous testament to her
posted by lulz at 7:56 AM on May 13, 2011


Also known as Amour Fou in the style of Andre Breton (fr.)
Amor Fou was one of the core beliefs of the surrealists, obsessional love, the kind of love that deranges the senses and tips those who feel it into a helpless vortex of appetite and feeling. via
posted by adamvasco at 8:07 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or you want what you cannot have until you have it and then you don't want it because wanting it was better than the reality of having it.
posted by Johnny Hazard at 8:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's one of the eternal tragedies of literature that so little of Sappho's poetry remains, and so much of what one can actually dig up in libraries or on the web is godawful Victorian-era English translations that distort its meaning badly.

That could be said of Catullus, Juvenal, Theognis, Homer, and any number of other classical poets just as well.

               Eros has shaken my mind,
wind sweeping down the mountain on oaks.


No lovelier fragments in the world.
posted by blucevalo at 8:13 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Limerence is like sticking your dick in an electrical socket. You know it's bad for you, but it feels so good you can't stop doing it. In the end, it becomes an end to itself.

Limerance is simply intrusive feelings about an object of desire. How you react to it is your own business.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:14 AM on May 13, 2011


Limerence is like sticking your dick in an electrical socket. You know it's bad for you, but it feels so good you can't stop doing it. In the end, it becomes an end to itself.

C'mon, peeps. I get the analogy and I'm a chick. It's something that's an incredible jolt of energy, but which, in the end, makes you miserable. Yet, some people keep seeking that jolt of energy and are never quite satisfied after it has worn off. They become love junkies. [tm corny]

posted by ereshkigal45 at 8:23 AM on May 13, 2011


whether I am completely eff'd here

Yes, you are. Enjoy.
posted by shivohum at 8:25 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And here is Basil Bunting's translation of Catullus:
            O, it is godlike to sit selfpossessed
when her chin rises and she turns to smile;
but my tongue thickens, my ears ring,
what I see is hazy.

I tremble. Walls sink in night, voices
unmeaning as wind. She only
a clear note, dazzle of light, fills
furlongs and hours

so that my limbs stir without will, lame,
I a ghost, powerless,
treading air, drowning, sucked
back into dark

unless, rafted on light or music,
drawn into her radiance, I dissolve
when her chin rises and she turns to smile.
O, it is godlike!

Imitation by Basil Bunting (1927)
and the poem's backstory from previously on MetaFilter:

Sappho: Poem of Jealousy (26 Translations)
posted by y2karl at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


As noted there in, we have Longinus' On the Sublime to thank for the poem's survival.

Julian Jaynes cited Sappho and her contemprary Archilocus as among the first poets with the same self-consciousness as we moderns, that is, to write of their interior mental and emotional states and accompanying experienced physical sensations, in his controversial The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.
posted by y2karl at 8:55 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, more on topic, from Ken Knabb's Bureau of Public Secrets (see here also) is Kenneth Rexroth's When We with Sappho and from memory, here is his translation of a fragment by her as well:

The moon has set,
And the Pleiades. It is
Midnight. Time passes.
I sleep alone.


Small wonder Longinus cited her as an example of the sublime.
posted by y2karl at 9:13 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rexroth's third translated fragment:

This is the dust of Timias
Who went unmarried to the dark
Bedroom of Persephone. And
For her death all her girl friends cut
Their lovely hair with bright sharp bronze.

posted by Iridic at 9:17 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


This thread got me to poke around for modern musical (re-)settings of Sappho's lyrics. Some of them are goofy, but Manos Hadjidakis' setting of "Gongyla" performed by Savina Yannatou and Kostas Grigoreas is really pretty.

This video of Fleri Dadonaki's version of the same song has English subtitles.
posted by nangar at 10:39 AM on May 13, 2011


"...basically just need to know whether i am completed eff'd here?"

Yes. Sorry. Such is limerence. :(
posted by Jacqueline at 10:39 AM on May 13, 2011


Yummy. Love with lime in it.l
posted by Samizdata at 11:28 AM on May 13, 2011


in it. even.
posted by Samizdata at 11:29 AM on May 13, 2011


"It's one of the eternal tragedies of literature that so little of Sappho's poetry remains, and so much of what one can actually dig up in libraries or on the web is godawful Victorian-era English translations that distort its meaning badly."

We can now avoid the distortions at least with Anne Carson's "If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho".
posted by sulphur at 4:39 PM on May 13, 2011


First heard the term on the Something Awful forums, so can't really take it seriously. Just a strange way of saying 'unrequited love', and not a word I thought was needed. I prefer 'standing in the middle of a lightning storm' to 'sticking my dick in an electrical socket' for the metaphor.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:18 PM on May 13, 2011


Just a strange way of saying 'unrequited love', and not a word I thought was needed.

Not necessarily unrequited--limerence is more a description of the state known as 'falling in love': the passion or cathexis one feels when in romantic love.

It is interesting that in the West, romantic love is revered. One 'falls in love' and marries. Other cultures recognize romantic love but see it as a problem, an aberration and the enemy of the institution of marriage.

And, actually, Sappho's poem is more aptly a description of the feelings on the part of one Denis De Rougmonte, in his Love In The Western World, noted as a necessity for true romantic love: the injured third party. Hence the alternate title Poem of Jealousy.

*A fuller description of what De Rougemont was about, albeit as a critique of Rene Girard's theory of mimesis, is here.
posted by y2karl at 7:07 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another vote for Anne Carson whose introduction includes:
Controversies about her personal ethics and way of life have taken up a lot of people’s time throughout the history of Sapphic scholarship. It seems that she knew and loved women as deeply as she did music. Can we leave the matter there?.
posted by adamvasco at 12:50 AM on May 14, 2011


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