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New and Improved Subject Headings: Relationships

Post by Gillian Speace
Posted January 13, 2015 in NoveList Plus, Readers' Advisory News

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Subject headings are terms that describe and delineate a topic. Used in bibliographic records, subject headings function as keywords that make it easier to search for books about certain topics. Because our culture is constantly evolving, it is sometimes necessary to update our subject headings in NoveList to reflect these changes, whether by adding new terminology or deleting outmoded expressions or concepts.

While creating new headings, we often look at some of our older headings to see if there are any improvements we can make. Recently, we've split up Triangles (Interpersonal Relations) into several new subject headings in order to more accurately describe the diversity that exists in human romantic relationships, both physical and emotional. (For more platonic bonds, we have Female friendships, Male friendships, and Friendship; these describe, respectively, friendships between women, friendships between men, and friendships among mixed or gender-neutral groups.)

Love triangles: Torn between two lovers? Wish that you had Jessie's girl (or guy)? Suffering from unrequited or forbidden love? These are the kinds of tough situations that merit the subject heading Love triangles. Focusing on romantic yearning and thwarted desire, the primary focus of the love triangle is emotional as opposed to sexual. Examples of literary Love triangles can be found in books such as David Nicholls' One Day, Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate, Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago, and Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot.

Polyamory describes a committed and consensual non-monogamous romantic relationship involving at least three people. Distinct from swinging and other forms of recreational sex, Polyamory depends upon ethical and responsible behavior on the part of all involved. Although sex plays a significant role in such partnerships, the emphasis of this subject heading is on interpersonal group dynamics. Some fictional examples of polyamory can be found in Jo Walton's Lifelode, Kathleen Knowles' Forsaking All Others, Elizabeth Searle's The Four-Sided Bed, and Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series.

Find books with these subject headings and more in NoveList. 


Gillian Speace is a NextReads Bibliographer at NoveList.