Fern’s SSRs


1. Bibliographic Citation (MLA Style):

Dyk, Natalie Van. “The Reconceptualization of Valentine’s Day in the United States: Valentine’s Day as a Phenomenon of Popular Culture.” Bridges: An Undergraduate Journal of Contemporary Connections, vol. 1, no. 1, 2013.

*Note: This is an undergraduate journal, open access & reviewed by student peers, so Natalie Van Dyk is not a scholar but a student. I got confused between her and another professor; however, I still read this source because it had relevant information and a good bibliography of scholars to point me toward. 

2. Thesis Stated & Re-stated:

“Thus, the reconceptualization of Valentine’s Day in the United States in the 1840s demonstrates the extent to which an emergent consumer culture shaped a historical ritual, thereby creating a popular cultural phenomenon. The popularization of Valentine’s Day is illustrated through the power of advertising, the commodification of the valentine and the way Valentine’s Day has become a holiday celebrated by most of society” (1).

My own words: Van Dyk argues that Valentine’s Day was transformed from a historical tradition into a popular holiday in the United States due to changing trends in consumer culture, like advertising techniques, the invention of the “valentine” and its spread to the masses.

3. Structure:

After the introduction where she gives the variety of “origin legends” of Valentine’s Day (1-2), the author transitions to explaining how Valentine’s Day can be justified as “popular culture” (2). Then, the meat of her article begins, where she explains how it was “reconceptualized” into a popular holiday: power of advertising companies in the 1840s (2), “valentine” shifting mean from a person to an object (2), marketing expanded to all age groups, not just young men and women (3), increase in printing and appearance of romantic poems by a group of “valentines writers” (3), spread to the middle-class (3). This last reason has two parts: the middle-class merchants began to emulate Valentine’s gift exchange traditions that were only common in aristocratic English people & they also involved the Valentine’s writers that wrote for both sexes and all age groups (4).

4. Analysis:

  • Hook: N/A
    • Thesis (“I say”): Valentine’s Day became popularized through the change of consumer culture in the 1840s.
    • Critical conversation or debate (“they say”): N/A
    • Theoretical foundations (“they say”): She builds on some theory of how popular culture is defined.
    • Definitions of key terms. Popular culture: John Storey’s 1993 definition as “culture, which is well-favored or liked by many people” cited on page 1.
    • Historical context: The author is an undergraduate student, and she lays the historical ancient legendary origins of the Valentine’s Day before explaining her main argument: how Valentine’s Day became so popular. She says it happened in the 1840s, but presents the various historical origin stories without explaining or hinting at which one she thinks is most true or accurate.
    • Evidence: Most refers to other scholars, not primary sources.
    • Analysis: Historical analysis through use of secondary literature cited and quoted throughout her paper.
    • Conclusion: She has one paragraph that summarizes her thesis and argument at the end of the article.
  • Rhetorical strategies to Emulate:

#1) Defines key words like popular culture

#2) Flow from one paragraph to the next

Words like “Likewise,” “Furthermore,” & “Lastly” at the beginning of paragraphs that builds on content from previous paragraph (3). 

#3) Clear thesis/concluding statements

Concluding Paragraph: “Ultimately, the reconfiguration of Valentine’s Day in the 1840s in the United States is an early example of how an emergent consumer culture transformed a traditional holiday. In this regard, the reshaping of the popular ritual into a phenomenon of popular culture demonstrates a growing consumer culture’s power in affecting the methods of advertising companies. The consumer culture’s participation in the commodification of the valentine was demonstrated through their purchasing power, the expertise of Valentine’s Day writers, and the ultimate expansion of Valentine’s Day to reach all of society.” (4).


1. Bibliographic Citation (MLA Style):

Aveni, Anthony F. The Book of the Year: A Brief History of Our Seasonal Holidays. Oxford University Press, 2003.

*Note: I did not just cite the book section that I actually focused on for this SSR (Chapter 3: February’s Holidays: Prediction, Purification, and Passionate Pursuit) because I did use the rest of the book as breadcrumbs to lead me to other sources! However, I did find this scholar’s website (link: https://www.anthonyfaveni.com/ )

2. Thesis Stated & Re-stated:

Excerpt from the sections within the chapter on Valentine’s Day in particular:

“His is a day of many meanings, a rite transformed from lustful Lupercus to martyred St. Valentine, to cherubic Cupid, the love goddess’s roguish little boy archer whose gold-tipped arrows can make even the gods feel sexy. We have witnessed its migration from the realm of the pastoral, the religious, to the secular—from divine love to the inner sanctum of affectionate sentiment to the public world of the shopping mall” (45-46).

My own words:  Valentine’s Day in coming to its present form has undergoing various evolutions of meaning from an ancient Roman celebration to the links to St. Valentine and Cupid, all moving it from a sacred to a secular popular celebration in its form today.

3. Structure: The author speaks in a storytelling mode, addressing various concerns, histories, and questions surrounding the origins of Valentine’s Day. I think it may be helpful if I list then out (showing the moves he makes and in what order they flow): Beginning on page 39 going in order, introductory paragraph — Roman Lupercus Festival story — St. Valentine & his martyrdom — poets writing about love and birds — Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem and other poets (42) — Elizabethan English customs and other customs (42-43) — American consumer culture & commercialization of the holiday (43-45)—Conclusion.

4. Analysis:

  • Hook: With a question enticing the readers: “Why is it that the fourteenth of February causes us to think of love?” (39).
    • Critical conversation or debate (“they say”): At one point, the author writes in parenthesis how “classical scholars have reservations: about how the Roman holiday is connected to modern day St. Valentine’s Day (39).
    • Historical context: The entire text is establishing historical context and origins of various Valentine’s customs.
    • Evidence: The author embeds the original poetry verses that became common in association with Valentine’s day (Pgs. 42, 43, & 44-45).
    • Analysis: What kind of analysis is offered, where, and how?
    • Quotations, Paraphrase, Summary: He embeds them into his storytelling voice throughout the narration of the holiday’s history.
    • Conclusion: He ties it back into other February holidays discussed in the chapter (46).
  • Rhetorical strategies to Emulate:

#1) Storytelling Voice that Avoids Academic Jargon

Example: “Later someone spiced up the story…” (40)

#2) Rhetorical Questions to Entice Reader

Example: “All well and good, but who was St. Valentine, the celebrated saint of passionate pursuit?” (40)

#3) Includes original poetry that popularized modern conceptions of Valentine’s Day

Examples on pages 42-43 (Chaucer’s poem and other poems spread/sayings)


1. Bibliographic Citation (MLA Style):

Lee, Ruth Webb. A History of Valentines. Studio Publications in association with Crowell, 1952.

*Note: I have not read the entire book yet (nor am I sure it is necessary, although it is fascinating, it isn’t exactly entirely about the origin story of the HOLIDAY but rather the tradition of “valentines”).

2. Thesis Stated & Re-stated:

“The history of St. Valentine, “Valentinus,” and the origin of the custom of celebrating February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day has been nearly lost in antiquity, but it is possible to piece the legend together supported by a number of authenticated facts (3). . . So the ancient custom of observing the St. Valentine’s Day stems from the early Romans but over the centuries has become inbued with Anglo-Saxon sentiment (7).”

My own words: It is challenging to piece together the history of this holiday, but it seems to stem from a Roman holiday and become coated by English/Anglo culture over time.

3. Structure: The book is divided into two parts, the first part focusing on St. Valentine briefly and the original “valentines.” The date range is from roughly 1740 (excluding origin “myths”) through the Late Victorian Period. The second half of the book (part two) explores English modern period traveling toward American modern Valentine publications.

4. Analysis:

  • Hook: She begins with an image and an anecdote about St. Valentine and his first depiction ever (3-4).
    • Exposition: She brings in a wealth of information from other secondary scholars as well as images, reports, newspaper articles, etc. in trying to figure out the origin of Valentine art (poems, cards, love songs, etc).
    • Thesis (“I say”): The core idea is trying to trace the development of Valentine art (and not so much how it became popularized.)
    • Critical conversation or debate (“they say”): The literature review is on page 5, and she addresses the various interpretations, debates, and skeptics on the holiday.
    • Historical context: information about the history of the text or issues under consideration, or biographical information about the author.
    • Structure: The chapter titles are informative of the content and major theme of each chapter, which strings together chronologically mostly.
    • Evidence: She uses images and direct quotations throughout the entire book.
    • Analysis: (Scholarly analysis?)
  • Rhetorical strategies to Emulate:

#1) The use of Chapter Titles & Parts (Subsections and themed-off chapters)

#2) Chronological Order

#3) Inclusion of Various Images and Valentine Art (all throughout the book, first one on Page 4).

Source #4:

1. Bibliographic Citation (MLA Style):

Kreil, Aymon. “The Price of Love: Valentine’s Day in Egypt and Its Enemies.” Arab Studies Journal 24, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 128–46.

2. Thesis Stated & Re-stated:

The thesis is spread out in multiple places throughout the introduction and was harder to find than for my other sources. My Best attempt is:

“This study follows Eva Illouz’s analysis of romantic love as a phenomenon deeply linked to the emergence of a consumer culture emphasizing leisure and enjoyment, shaping imaginations of encounters at places like restaurants, movie theaters, or deserted beaches. For Illouz, a sense of privilege is hidden in romantic dreams, since these dreams are, for most people, difficult to realize. This romantic imagination parallels the urge to communicate feelings as a way to explore the self and attain happiness. .  . In order to discuss these issues, I describe Valentine’s Day in Egypt, its history, and how people celebrate it. Valentine’s Day focuses on imaginaries surrounding heterosexual bonds. “True love” designates either pre-conjugal passion or, on the contrary, the silent relationship that develops over tim after marriage. These contrary conceptions of love serve as a first axis of analysis. I then focus on the expressive love that Valentine’s Day promotes through its merchandising and in the context of the frequent assessment in Egypt that the event is a celebration of sweet talk” (131).

My own words:

This study builds off the work of Eva Illouz and her theory on romantic love. It argues that Valentine’s Day in Egypt has become a holiday that  has shaped Egyptian imaginations of true love, romance, and marriage.

3. Structure:

The author introduces Valentine’s Day with a movie anecdote about modern love in Egypt. He then generally describes notions of love and Valentine’s Day in Egypt. Following this, the article ensues for sections:

1) “Valentine’s Day, Egyptian Style”: This sections gives an overarching view of Valentine’s Day commercialization and arrival in Egypt, as well as religious, nationalist, anti-consumerist receptions and reactions to it. There has been pushback for it being a holiday affirming the passions and promoting desires.

2) “Sweet Talk Institutionalized” (135): It is day not associated much with religion, but most of the interviews of the this author showed that it is abut the affection, romance, and love that draws some Egyptians to celebrate it. The older generation is more skeptical.

3) “True Love and Impossible Love” (137): This section discusses the two separate strands of love running through Egyptian thought. 

4) Love & Status (139): On the tradition of marriage and its change with the arrival of love modernism and a holiday for middle-class and class mobility

5) “No Money, No Honey: The Economic Limits of Romanticism” (142): Finally the author concludes with a final section that discusses the way this holiday gets around the financial constraints marriages in Egypt can pose on the families and has opened new paths on what and how romantic love can be expressed.

4. Analysis:

  • Hook: An anecdote from the modern movie Soft Hands that shows modern notions of love & marriage post 1950.
    • Exposition: The author uses interviews with Egyptians and scholarly theory on modern notions of romantic love to bolster his claims.
    • Thesis (“I say”): Notions of love in Egypt (and generally) need to be historicized as they go through cultural changes, one such being observed in Egypt currently. He uses Valentine’s Day as a case study to show the intergenerational tensions on the concept of love and marriage, the older generations tending to be wary of marriage for romance and passion and the younger using it as an outlet for affection while struggling with the traditional forms and burdens of marriage.
    • Critical conversation or debate (“they say”): Literature review is in the introduction of the article, and he is responding to arguments not on Valentine’s Day, in particular, but rather changing notions of “love” (129-139). “They say” (scholars like Jennifer Cole and Lynn Thomas) that there is a dichotomy occurring between generations in the modern period on the notion of love in countries like Egypt and others in Africa, yet this needs to historicized more thoroughly (something this paper attempts).
    • Theoretical foundations (“they say”): Jennifer Cole & Lynn Thomas: colonial period brought conflict that created intergenerational divisions in thought in Africa; Eva Illouz: romantic love and consumer culture are deeply linked;
    • Definitions: Love modernism (129): linking love with the concept of progress and equality
    • Historical context: Aymon Kreil is an anthropologist specializing on the Middle East
    • Evidence: Interviews with people living in Cairo, Egypt between 2008-2010 (when he did his field work).
    • Analysis: He contextualizes and expounds on the history and comments as introduced throughout the article.
    • Quotations, Paraphrase, Summary: I thought providing two quick examples of how he does engages with other scholars and voices would be more helpful in this case than to explain it (show over tell):

“Criticism of Valentine’s Day draws on overlapping religious, nationalist,anti-consumerist, and moral arguments. Many Islamic scholars in the Middle East have issued fatwas condemning Valentine’s Day along the model of bin ‘Uthaymin’s fatwa, mentioned above.” (134)


“In this regard, romanticism and its correlate, the mastering of properways to express feelings with gentleness, are tools of distinction. This process is reminiscent of Pierre Bourdieu’s more general analysis of ways of talking as social classifiers of the people using them.” (140-141).

The author doesn’t always explicitly call out any scholars in the main body of his work, but the foundation he sets in the introduction of theories of notion of love are carried and embedded throughout.

  • Conclusion:

He doesn’t really have a conclusion section like he does an introductory section, but this sentence is what he concludes with:

“By connecting love to transnational imaginations, Valentine’s Day and its yearly institutionalization of sweet talk offers new paths to the experience and disciplining of intimate aspirations around romantic consumption.” (143).

5. Rhetorical strategies to Emulate:

#1) Clear-And-Easy-for-Anyone-to-Understand Language (Avoids Jargon)  

#2) Engages Scholarship & Theoretical Foundations Smoothly and Seamlessly

Examples: I gave some in the Analysis section and I also appreciate they way he relies and carries the theory of romantic love Eva Illouz throughout his work.

#3) His hook was enticing and so well befitting his topic. I would like to begin some of my own writing that way also, that is, with an anecdotal story from a movie or life, etc.

Source #5:

1. Bibliographic Citation (MLA Style):

Reames, Sherry L. Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine by Henry Ansgar Kelly (Review). Vol. 10. Studies in the Age of Chaucer. The New Chaucer Society, 1988.

Note: I don’t have the book yet, so I thought I would just use this book review for now.

2. Thesis Stated & Re-stated:

“Henry Ansgar Kelly’s hypothesis, in a nutshell, is that Geoffrey Chaucer may have invented the custom of associating Saint Valentine’s Day with lovers and that the holiday he had in mind probably fell on May 3, not February 14. Unfortunately, Kelly has not found enough evidence to make a strong case for the second and more original half of this theory” (157).

My own words:

The evidence for the book’s thesis is two-fold, the second not as well supported. IT is that Valentine’s Day as a day for love was invented by the poet Chaucer,  and it probably wasn’t on Feb 14.

3. Structure:

The article is only a couple pages long, it gives a brief introduction and then walks us through all of the chapters of the book being reviewed, Chaucer and the Cult of St. Valentine. Each paragraph discusses and comments on the themes/arguments. She ends with some final observations about the book indexes.

4. Analysis:

  • Hook: She just gets right into without the fluff. No HOOK.  
    • Thesis (“I say”): The book is well written engaging with literary arguments, particularly that of Oruch, but the idea of the dates being wrong isn’t that well grounded in evidence.
    • Historical context: Sherry Reames is a professor of Medieval Studies and English.
    • Evidence: The argument is of course grounded in reference from the book itself, but she summarizes in her own words and avoids direct quotations. See example:

“If we can assume that Chaucer’s Valentine’s Day, when the birds choose their mates, is really May 3, then it becomes possible both to solve some of the astronomical puzzles in his Valentine poems (pp. 117-20) and, more imponant, to find a coherent meaning and purpose in his references to both dates” (159).

  • Analysis: There is individual analysis of each chapter pieces together chronological with the order of the book. For example, she explains how in Chapter 2 & 3, the author of the book undertakes a deep look at various facets of the season of spring in medieval times: how it was calculated, the equinox, spring and February weather, etc. She argues that with the “wealth” of information and “wide variety” of sources, that she critiques Ansgar’s (the author of the book) “narrow” choice to use this information only in responding to a scholarly debate because it is hard for the reader to engage deeply without having read the other scholar who Ansgar argues against, Jack Oruch (and his article on Spring and St. Valentine) (158).
    • Conclusion: She concludes with general comments on the book, the indexes, etc. She says that the book is more important to be seen for its “precision” in correcting “oversimplifications” about St. Valentine and Chaucer in literature (159). She also suggests translations of original text may have been helpful.

5. Rhetorical strategies to Emulate:

#1) I appreciate the general flow of this article. Each paragraph naturally reads well from one to the next.

#2) I love the first sentence! It is clear, and it does “hook” me without being a hook. Anecdotal starts are overrated, sometimes. Here’s a way to begin that I really liked without forcing a story of cliché quote at the beginning:

Example: “Henry Ansgar Kelly’s hypothesis, in a nutshell, is that Geoffrey Chaucer may have invented the custom of associating Saint Valentine’s Day withlovers and that the holiday he had in mind probably fell on May 3, not February 14.” (157)

#3) I really like her writing style because it is both scholarly but in a conversationalist manner. I felt like the author was speaking to me. I definitely want to emulate this. (I also just admire her speaking style that comes out in her writing).

Example: “What he does not quite say here is that the book is intended to challenge one competing theory in particular: that of Jack B. Oruch” (157).

One thought on “Fern’s SSRs

  • March 9, 2019 at 9:23 pm

    3 were due before break, 2 more on the Monday after.


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