Synopses & Reviews
In this lively, interdisciplinary exploration of the cultural and social history of early nineteenth-century France, art historian Patricia Mainardi focuses on what was considered a major social problem of the time adultery. In a period when expectations about marriage were changing, the problems of husbands, wives, and lovers became a major theme in theater, literature, and the visual arts. The author demonstrates that this intense interest was historically grounded in the post-Revolutionary collision between the new concept of the individual's right to happiness and the traditional prerogatives of family and state.
The book examines the questions that permeated French culture and society: Is duty or happiness more important? Are arranged marriages doomed to be empty of love and poisoned by adultery? Should adulterous wives and their lovers be punished while husbands may commit adultery with impunity? Out of such legal, social, and cultural debates ultimately emerged modern bourgeois family values, Mainardi argues. And she illuminates how art, in all its varieties, both influences and is influenced by social change.
"Mainardis investigation affects not only our interpretation of much of the visual culture of 19th-century France, but requires too that we rethink the journalism, the literature, the poetry, and the theater indeed all aspects of elite and popular culture of the period." Abigail Solomon-Godeau, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Husbands, Wives, and Lovers
is a valuable, sometimes entertaining work that is needlessly marred by some bad habits of academic publishing: the misleading title, the cobbling together of conference papers, the lightness of evidence compared to the weight of argument, and the ludicrously inflated assessment supplied by one of the fifty-four people thanked by the author....This only serves to make the reader as suspicious of the book as a girl should be of a courting bachelor." Graham Robb, The Times Literary Supplement
(read the entire Times Literary Supplement review
In this interdisciplinary exploration of the cultural and social history of early 19th-century France, Patricia Mainardi focuses on what was considered a major social problem of the time - adultery - and illuminates how art, in all its varieties, both influences and is influenced by social change.
About the Author
Patricia Mainardi is professor of art history and executive officer (chair) of the doctoral program in art history at the Graduate Center, The City University of New York.