Project Proposal (Ikra)

St. Valentine’s Day: Origins and Evolution

Project Proposal


Problem: I am researching the origins and evolution of St. Valentine’s Day from a day about commemorating a Christian martyr to a globalizing celebration of some shared notion of “romantic love.” Valentine’s Day sacred origins go back to roughly the 5th century, and it has now evolved into a secularized holiday. As a history major at Davidson, I’m curious to know the historical development of a day commemorated for centuries and its coming to a such a massive commercialized status because in it is a fascinating tale applicable to all of our lives today. In that sense, this isn’t just a site for someone who wants to know the history of the Valentine’s Day, although it certainly is also that. In the evolution of St. Valentine’s Day, we have the tide of changing times, intellectual thought, values, and changing society. Valentine’s is a holiday consistent across the various periods of history, that bridges the past to the present, but also has embedded within it numerous changes over time. My project’s larger significance, then, is to use Valentine’s Day as a case study to tell us our own social and intellectual history.

For my sources & data, I will use mostly historical journals and other scholarly articles. I have already conducted preliminary research, through reading online articles from about the history of Valentine’s Day and I have researched the library to see what books we have on it. I will soon check out from our library a 1952 book by Ruth Webb Lee entitled a History of Valentine’s.  I am going to use research librarians and our library databases to collect my information. I am familiar with how to do historical and general scholarly research because I was history major and wrote a senior thesis that required significant archival digging and researching. I am concerned about not having access to ILL, since I am not officially a Davidson student. For that, I am going to speak with our course professors and the library staff. (I may have a solution, but I will have to speak with the professor I work for who has a guest account for his research assistant to order from ILL).

Doing this project digitally presents its own fruits and challenges, some of which I have tried to delineate below.

Digital Aspect: A beautifully-crafted and well-researched digital display of the history of Valentine’s Day that I can share with friends and those who may be interested in learning how the centuries have shaped our society   Humanities Aspect: I think most people don’t care about looking into why we celebrate what we celebrate, and the meaning behind certain public norms. This is case for why history matters and what it can teach us about ourselves and about the world. Of course, it’s only a small contribution through the lens of one holiday that was initially a holy-day marking St. Valentine’s death. How did we get here, and why does it matter to us humans? I hope I can at least chip away a small part at this larger life question.   The Major One: I don’t know how to use digital platforms and digital humanities is completely new for me, so I will be learning a new language in a way and using new research tools with which I am quite unfamiliar. This will become very time-intensive in the sense that I will have to first learn how to use the tool before I can even begin to get my content on there. It will likely be challenging (not necessarily a “con” in negative sense).

Social Media Networking Plan

#1) TBD due to updated information on one of my sources. Reach out to scholar Eric Schmidt (contact info to be discovered).

#2) Dr. Wertheimer (history department at Davidson College) & my former history advisor

#3) Teacher Ali Gulestan (who collects research and data on holidays, language expert)

I can reach all of these people through email and phone, and I have the contact information for all.

Set of Steps to Generate Interest:

1. Ask family and friends how I should attract them to this.

2. Write a Davidsonian Article.

3. Create a Twitter Account for my digital project & tweet throughout the year.*

4. Create an Instagram and post archival documents and quotes from my research.*

*(The ones I will invest the most time and effort into.)

I think all of these will help amass a decent following in interested readers, especially perhaps Valentine’s Day lovers like me more interested in investigating its roots.

Some Sources:

Lee, Ruth Webb. 1952. A History of Valentines. New York: Studio Publications in association with Crowell. (Main Library Stacks: 741.6 L47h)

Johnson, Robert. The Psychology of Romantic Love.

Van Dyk, Natalie. “The Reconceptualization of Valentine’s Day in the
United States: Valentine’s Day as a Phenomenon of
Popular Culture.