2024 events

Sex, Scandal, and SensationTuesday 2 July 2024 to Thursday 4 July 2024Falmouth University, UK, in partnership with City University, Hong KongSex, Scandal, and Sensation is an interdisciplinary and global exploration of the role and impact of the sensational, the scandalous, and the sexual in literature, film, television, gaming, and other forms of cultural production. The conference is dedicated to the discussion of a broad range of genres and sub-genres, including Romance, Erotica, and Pornographies; Bestsellers, Blockbusters, and Bonkbusters; Sensation Fiction and the Sensational Press; Crime Fiction and True Crime narratives; Shilling Shockers, Penny Dreadfuls and the Pulps; the Gothic in both traditional and modern forms; Thrillers on both page and screen; Soap Operas and Shocking Theatre; RPG and Digital storytelling; and other genres and forms that both rely on the scandal, sensation, and sex for their effects, and explore its effects on us.Taking place in the bicentenary of the birth of Wilkie Collins, the godfather of Sensation Fiction, and amidst Simon & Schuster’s ongoing reissue of the entire catalogue of the so-called ‘Queen of Trash’ and powerful feminist icon Jackie Collins, this conference celebrates, exposes, and interrogates the boundaries and depths of popular, and not so popular, culture and real-world events. We will be thinking and talking about affect and its effects, about public outrage and private shame, about censorship and permissiveness, about lawsuits and love affairs, about the market and its imperatives, about aesthetics and morality, and all of this across a wide range of disciplines, mediums, time periods, and texts.We hope you will join us for the exciting event, which will bring together scholars, researchers, students, and enthusiasts to share their research, insights, and perspectives in an open and inclusive atmosphere. We welcome submissions for individual twenty-minute papers as well as for full panels exploring sex, scandal, and sensation. Subjects can include (but are not bound by):• The portrayal and evolution of sex, scandal, and sensation across different periods and genres• The role of sensation in bestsellers and popular literature• The portrayal of desire, sex, and consent in global Romantic Fictions• The ways in which scandal and sensation are used to challenge or reinforce social norms• Creating the sensational on screen• Navigating consent on screen• Real world scandals and fictional sensation• Landscape of sensation, the scandalous, and the traumatic• Navigating sex and sexualities in traditional and digital forms• Interactive digital romance in visual novels and dating simulators• Simulating sex and romance: the rules of roleplayingSubmissions:Proposals should include a title, an abstract of 250–300 words, a brief biographical note (up to 100 words), and contact details. Panel proposals are very welcome.Please submit your proposals to sensationconference@gmail.com by 14th February 2024. We encourage submissions from scholars at all stages of their careers, including early career researchers and postgraduate students. Interdisciplinary approaches and innovative methodologies are welcome.

Schedule of 2022-2023 online events

Friday 18 November 6pm GMT

Gözde Kılıç: Marazî Aşk: Love and/as Sickness in Late Ottoman and Early Republic Medical Discourse

María Isabel González Cruz: Book Presentation + Q&A: Discourses and Identities in Romance Fiction. Anglophone Visions from Madeira and the Canaries; Hispanicisms in Romance Fiction. An Annotated Glossary.

Friday 9 December 3pm GMT

Ania Malinowska: Book presentation: Love in Contemporary Technoculture

Friday 13 January 3pm GMT

Tony Milligan & discussant: Presentation and discussion: Care about Future Generations as a form of Love.

Friday 17 February 3pm GMT

Christina Straub & Martin Purcell: Themed workshop: Love´s role in state institutions

Friday 21 April 6pm GMT

Estella Carolye Kuchta: Presentation and discussion: An Ecocentric Theory of Love: New Research

Award for Citadel Love Stories

18 March 2022

University researchers have won a Generations Working Together Award for a project that brought together an intergenerational group of LGBTQ+ people to discuss their experiences and perspectives.

‘Citadel Love Stories: Exploring Life-time LGBTQ+ Love and Relationships’ was led by Dr Mei Fang and Professor Judith Sixsmith (School of Health Sciences) and Professor Michael Gratzke (School of Humanities and Director of the Doctoral Academy) along with partners at the Citadel Youth Centre in Edinburgh.

The project was funded by the Institute for Social Sciences Research (ISSR) and brought participants together in a virtual space where they conveyed a strong sense of shared love and relationship experiences. The storytelling focus of the project provided the opportunity to explore health and social outcomes associated with younger and older peoples’ LGBTQ+ experiences.

Citadel Love Stories won the Social Justice and Dignity category of the Generations Working Together Awards. A short film sees participants and researchers share their experiences of the project, while more information can be found here.

Listen to Love – zine launch

16 June 2018

The young writers from The Warren present their collaborative zine at Type Slowly/The Warren Record Shop. More information on the project can be found here.

Dementia Love Stories

9 November 2017

This project conducted by Emma Wolverson and Michael Gratzke is starting off with a training session for Hull City of Culture volunteers and Hull PhD poets on the morning before the conference on ‘The cultural legacy of ageing well with dementia in Hull’ on 29 November 2017. John Killick of Dementia Positive will deliver the training which volunteers will put to good use at an event in January 2018 at the memory loss support group Butterflies in Hull.

The basic premise is that people with dementia have a creative voice which should be heard. The training will equip volunteers to co-write poetry with people who have dementia. To poets as to people with dementia, every single word is precious. Words are carefully arranged in way which may divert from everyday language use in terms of meaning, form and connections (semantics, morphology and syntax).

The Butterfly collaboration is a pilot project which will be carefully evaluated. Possible follow-on initiatives may include the provision of poetry tool-kit online for carers to download, and further workshops on prose and visual arts such as photography.

Inspired by a similar initiative in Australia, we maintain a focus on love in all its forms such as love between spouses, love within the family and the love of care professionals. Memory loss does not mean that people stop experiencing or giving love. Each voice of love is rich and deserves to be heard.

Research workshop on 24 September 2016

Researchers and PhD candidates from social sciences, cultural studies and clinical psychology at the University of Hull have come together as the Hull CLS group. The goal of this research group is to establish Critical Love Studies as a multidisciplinary field of research at the University of Hull and beyond. In order to achieve this, we are working towards grant capture, a programme of participatory & creative events during the Hull City of Culture 2017 programme, a major international conference in conjunction with the Love Research Network, and a number of publications.

Critical Love Studies, as we understand them, can be expressed by the phrase: Love is what people say it is. First and foremost, this means that we are open-minded, attentive and ready to embrace experiences and representations of love where they occur. In order to understand them we have to ask open-ended questions and to listen closely to nuance. This attitude favours an inductive research methodology rather than following a traditional theory of love.

Furthermore, the phrase above addresses love as something people say and do. Love is relational and it is performative. We have no direct access to the potentiality of all love. Love comes into being in the billions acts of loving which occur at all times. Thirdly, love in its performativity is productive. We reproduce given patterns of loving behaviour and thus reinforce the truth regimes associated with them (love is supposed to be unconditional, love between two non-related adults is supposed to be exclusive, you are supposed to hate the person with whom you are breaking up etc.). Still, changes in love occur in the uncountable acts of non-identical repetition. Like changes to gender roles and gender relations, changes to experiences and representations of love are gradual. This is why each and every act of love is valuable to Critical Love Studies.

The workshop will take place on 24 September 2016 from 10am to 5pm at:

Maritime Historical Studies Centre, Blaydes House, 6 High Street, Hull, HU1 1HA

Attendance is free for registered students and unwaged people. Otherwise it is £30 which covers refreshments and a light lunch as well. The maximum number of participants is thirty.

Abstracts of the papers will be circulated beforehand. We invite participants to read these abstracts and to contribute to discussions.


10.00 Opening remarks

10.15-11.30 Session 1: “Professional Love” – convened by Emma Wolverson (Hull)

Peter Oakes (Doncaster Disability Services): What’s love got to do with it? Long-term support and love by paid staff in psychological health and wellbeing services.

Charlotte Cowell (Hull): The role of care home staff in facilitating continuity of love for couples living with dementia following a transition into residential care.


11.45-13.00 Session 2: “Digital Love” – convened by Susanne Vosmer (Hull)

Olga Mudraya (Huddersfield): Language in online dating by over-50s.

Jo Bell & Louis Bayley (Hull): Online expressions of love in the face of grief.

Lunch (provided)

13.45-15.00 Session 3: “Love/Community/Family” – convened by Julie Seymour (Hull)

Jo Britton (Sheffield): Exploring the lives of Muslim Men: Family, Community and Generation.

Julie Walsh (Sheffield): Community Love: The significance of ‘family’ in a city that is increasingly culturally diverse


15.15-16.00 Paper & discussion: Love+/-Loss.

Michael Gratzke (Hull): Critical Love Studies and the ends of love.

Wine reception (until 16.45)



The Institute of English Cultures and Literatures, University of Silesia (Poland) and Love Research Network

2–3 July 2015

The interest of love studies in the ways affection can be materialised has been reflected through various scholarly perspectives. Although material culture studies have given the issue less attention, there has recently been a revival of research into the intersection of materiality and love. The conference is seeking to reexamine love from the perspective of materiality studies, especially new materialism and object-oriented philosophy, to spark a debate on a relationship between love, objects and new forms of materialising affection. The conference aims to analyse the role of things and material culture in practicing and conceptualising love. It intends to provide an insight into how materiality (in its broadest sense) impacts the understanding of love today (its meanings and practices), and reversely, how love contributes to the production and transformation of the material world.

Call for papers.

INAUGURAL LECTURE: Professor Michael Gratzke, University of Hull

27 April September 2015, 7:30pm

‘Love is what people say it is’ Researching Experiences and Representations of Romantic Love in the 21st Century

‘Love is what people say it is’, means in a phenomenological sense that people’s lived experiences and descriptions of love should be taken seriously by love researchers. Love is what people describe it as being. The trajectory of this kind of research is inductive.
Additionally there is a performative sense to this sentence where love quite literally is talked into being through people’s utterances. That is to say, “I love you.” is a performative utterance in a linguistic sense. Therefore, love can be understood as comprising no more, and equally no less, than people’s daily performances of love.
Having completed a PhD in Modern German Literature at Hamburg University, Michael Gratzke moved to the UK in 1999. He held posts as a lector at Cambridge, and as lecturer and senior lecturer at St Andrews before joining the University of Hull in September 2014. So far he has published two monographs, one on representations of masochism, the other on heroism of sacrifice. He is the founder of the international, multi-disciplinary Love Research Network. He is currently working on a third book addressing romantic love in German, English and Finnish literature of the 21st century.

Listen to the lecture.


26th September 2014, 1-7pm

Open University (London regional office), 1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden Town, London NW1 8NP (Room 2B/C)

Workshop, 1-4pm

Dr Philip Roscoe & Dr Shiona Chillas (St Andrews): ‘Organizing love: a perspective from the social sciences’

Dr Anna Malinowska (Silesia): ‘Temporalities of love: affection and acceleration culture’

Dr Meg Barker (Open University): ‘Rewriting the rules of love’

Dr Katherine Twamley (Institute of Education): ‘An ethnographic approach to love and intimacy across cultures’

Prof Michael Gratzke (Hull): ‘Studying “love” as a phenomenon in its own right’

Public lectures and discussion, 5-7pm

Prof. Simon May (King’s College London): ‘Love as religion’

Dr Tony Milligan (Hertfordshire): ‘The politics of love’

Both events were free of charge.

Research Colloquium


Love Today: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Monday 16 December 2013 3–7 pm
School III, United College, University of St Andrews

3.00 welcome (Professor Lorna Milne, General Editor of Forum for Modern Language Studies)

3.15 Professor Eva Illouz, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (Sociology), ‘What “love” do modern people mean when they speak about love?’

4.15 Professor Simon May, King’s College, London (Philosophy), ‘What can Biblical narratives teach us about the nature of love?’

5.15 tea break

5.45 Professor Lynne Pearce, Lancaster University (English), ‘Love’s memory: the role of memory and dream-work in the production and sustenance of Agapic love’

6.45 closing remarks (Dr Michael Gratzke, Love Research Network)

Guests and colleagues may attend any of the papers without charge or the need to register.

The next morning Profs Pearce and May will attend a postgraduate workshop where three students will respond to the papers and three other students will present their work.