Monday, June 28, 2010

The Geography of Love (Part 1)

In working with Cross Connection recently, I have been exposed to many wonderful new things. Two of these are sources of inspiration for Louise Midjord's beautiful ballet, "A Map of Me (and You)." I will discuss the first of these today: 17th-century French author Madeleine de Scudéry's fictional map, Carte de Tendre (Map of Tenderness).

Of the "Carte de Tendre", Wikipedia says, "The Map of Tendre (Carte de Tendre) was a French map of an imaginary land called Tendre produced by several hands (including Catherine de Rambouillet). It appeared as an engraving (attributed to François Chauveau) in the first part of Madeleine de Scudéry's 1654-61 novel Clélie. It shows a geography entirely based around the theme of love according to the Précieuses of that era: the river of Inclination flows past the villages of "Billet Doux" (Love Letter), "Petits Soins" (Little Trinkets) and so forth."

The map represents the "stations" of love as if they were real places--a sort of "topographical allegory." The river Inclination divides the country; it is joined by two smaller rivers, Respect and Gratitude, before flowing into The Dangerous Sea. The map is meant to be read from bottom to top, and along the way plots the path of relationship. Three main cities--New Friendship, Tender Esteem, Tender Recognition--are marked on this map. The path from Nouvelle amitié to Tendre-sur-Reconnaissance represents the gradual increase of love; there are places to be avoided (the Lake of Indifference, the smaller towns of Betrayal and Indiscretion, etc.).

I understand how one could get inspired by the idea of love as a destination or a geography. I was so happy when I found out about this creation from Louise: it is beautiful, maybe sad at times, but the imagery behind the fictional cartography and the idea of relationships as journeys ring true in a gentle (and yes: "Tendre") sort of way. Though I have little personal experience in the area of relationships at this point in my life, I don't think much is needed to appreciate this wonderful creation: Love is sort of a universal subject, and whether it's experienced from afar (observing a couple in love; seeing people fall out of love) or from within, this map represents feelings and emotional "destinations" recognized by most of us.

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