“There Are as Many Kinds of Love as There Are Hearts”: Age-Gap Relationships in Literature and Cultural Attitudes



Love comes in many forms, as we all know and as the quote from Anna Karenina by Tolstoy holds. Some forms are more frequent than others. As a consequence, less frequent forms may be either tolerated or dismissed as deviant, and therefore socially sanctioned. And different cultures may deal with such forms very differently. In this chapter we look at one form that is less frequent, namely age-gap relations: love relations between either an older man and a considerably younger woman, or vice versa: an older woman and a considerably younger man.

Since it may be expected that nations differ in their attitudes toward such relationships, we investigated two that are (geographically and culturally) wide apart: Brazil and Ukraine.

We offer some examples of empirical methods (Empirical methods aim at knowledge that comes from observation and experience, i.e., evidence gathered through the senses that can be analyzed independently by anyone wishing to re-analyze the data gathered.) with which to investigate short time and longitudinal effects of confronting fictional love stories.

We report a case study, in which we checked how social views on intimate relationships involving a substantial age difference between partners were influenced by reading literary passages from canonical literature, focusing on age-gap relationships. The results cast light on the views on age-gap relations in these respective cultures and thereby highlight their national mentality. Additionally, the findings lend support to the idea that reading literature influences human attitudes.


Love Age-gap relationships Empirical research Cultural attitudes Literary reading Effects of reading on perceptions of love 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of English Philology and TranslationBorys Grinchenko Kyiv UniversityKievUkraine
  2. 2.Faculty of Languages and LiteraturesLudwig Maximilian UniversityMunichGermany

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