My friends and I used to make fun of Gallatin by coming up with absurd fake concentrations. “Hi I’m in Gallatin, majoring in Origami” was one. Or, “Gee, I’m having trouble finding classes to fit my Vampire Studies concentration.”
But meet Coco Lillian: a real Gallatin Junior majoring in “Grand Romantic Gestures in Literature with a focus on the Renaissance.” Not long ago, my friends would have scoffed at her choice of study, and she knows it. At first glance it looks like the Comp. Lit. curriculum took ecstasy. However, Coco is passionate about love and scholarly in her study of it. She buries herself in the work of Shakespeare, Plato, Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Castiglione, and many others drawing connections between each and finding her own conclusions about love and literature. And she doesn’t care if you think that sounds “cliché.”
So I sat down with her to find out more about this concentration and picked up some anecdotes and lessons about racy romance novels, cynics, and one-night-stands.
Annie Werner: Tell me about something you’re working on right now.
Coco Lillian: Right now, among other things, I’m working on getting my Independent Study approved, “Courtly Love & The Symposium.” Courtly love, from the 12th century, is a set of rules defining the “right way to love” characterized by the man’s idealization of his lady, love’s ability to be transformative, and love at first sight. I want to compare that to Plato’s definition of love in Symposium to see how these two different ideas relate and differ.
AW: Antagonizing question: What do you want to do with your concentration?
CL: I made this my concentration because I love the concept of love, and I think it holds great meaning. I’ll probably go to grad school, read more literature. Love love. And then I don’t know, maybe writing.
AW: So what would your Book of Love be like?
CL: Well, actually, I think it would be fun to write a romance novel. When I was younger I used to steal my mom’s romance novels—the racy ones that have the “first” cover, and then you flip it over and there’s “the other cover” with a shirtless Fabio ravaging some girl. I’ve read a ton of them, but I’m very particular. I typically like them to take place in the 1800’s—like a dirty version of Pride & Prejudice.
AW: I’d be into a dirty Mr. Darcy.
CL: Gotta love him. Although I’d probably be the one to fall for Mr. Wickham. There are tons of Mr. Wickham’s in Manhattan—you have to go to another borough to find a Darcy. They’re out there though.
AW: Have you ever been in love?
CL: Oh yes, twice.
AW: Have you ever experienced a Grand Romantic Gesture? What would be the ideal?
CL: Oh, I’m waiting. Having a song written about me is a pretty good one, but I fantasize about them on a daily basis—I do live in my head a little bit. I’m an idealist. I know that everything you can say about love winds up sounding cliché, but I really think that even though love can be the worst and best feeling, it’s definitely worth it.
AW: What do you think about one-night-stands?
CL: I used to work for a DJ at a club, so I definitely saw a lot of that. I think that sometimes you meet someone once and have a connection, but it’s only meant to be a one-time thing. And that’s OK. But if a guy in a club says, “Hey let me buy you and your friends drinks so we can have sex in the bathroom.” That is definitely not a Grand Romantic Gesture.
AW: Have you ever found anyone else who shares your passion for love?
CL: Um, my Gallatin advisor is really supportive! Honestly, I’m kind of a loner in my belief in love. It’s hard. People are always very cynical. When I tell them about my concentration, people literally laugh. Even my family.
AW: So what do you say to the people who laugh?
CL: I just ask, “Have you ever read Plato’s Symposium? Have you ever read Boccaccio’s The Decameron?” Those are all serious writers writing seriously about love. So what? You’re a finance major with no soul? Congratulations. Love is everything worth living for.