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When asked to name an archetypal love story, most people will reply 'Romeo & Juliet', although some say 'Tristan & Isolde' instead. Very few will come up with a classical example, and the reason for this is simple: when you say archetypal, it is assumed you mean love between a man and a woman, and instances of this in classical accounts are rare. The reason for this is also not hard to find: as it does now, 'love' in the ancient world meant the affection of equals, and given the inferior position of women in Greek and Roman society, between the sexes is not usually where love is to be found.
Straightforward examines how we got from there to here. It is a study not of the loves of real people, but of the ideal of love as it found expression in stories, stories which were often retold and reimagined by new generations and new cultures. By following these stories and the changes they underwent through the centuries Straightforward attempts to answer two related questions: 'When and why did the heterosexual ideal become normative in our narrative tradition?' and 'What was there before?'
We begin in archaic Greece, with a story which was already old when Homer composed his epics...