Synopses & Reviews
For centuries, people have been thinking and writingandmdash;and fiercely debatingandmdash;about the meaning of marriage. Just a hundred years ago, Progressive era reformers embraced marriage not as a time-honored repository for conservative values, but as a tool for social change.
In Until Choice Do Us Part, Clare Virginia Eby offers a new account of marriage as it appeared in fiction, journalism, legal decisions, scholarly work, and private correspondence at the turn into the twentieth century. She begins with reformers like sexologist Havelock Ellis, anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons, and feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who argued that spouses should be andldquo;class equalsandrdquo; joined by private affection, not public sanction. and#160;Then Eby guides us through the stories of three literary couplesandmdash;Upton and Meta Fuller Sinclair, Theodore and Sara White Dreiser, and Neith Boyce and Hutchins Hapgoodandmdash;who sought to reform marriage in their lives and in their writings, with mixed results. With this focus on the intimate side of married life, Eby views a historical moment that changed the nature of American marriageandmdash;and that continues to shape marital norms today.
andldquo;In this fascinating and timely study, Clare Virginia Eby shines in her ability to bring us closer to the emotional and cultural aspects of the Progressive era, and her argument for marriage as a laboratory is extremely compelling. Until Choice Do Us Part will make a terrific addition to seminars on women and gender history, family history, and the history of sexualityandmdash;not to mention a number of other disciplines.andrdquo;
andldquo;Clare Virginia Ebyandrsquo;s Until Choice Do Us Part splendidly chronicles a critical era in the history of marriage in the United States, the transitional years from the Progressive era to the modern period by focusing on several representative unions among American writers and intellectuals. Eby probes how their ideas took shape and how those, in turn, shaped values governing intimate life for the rest of the century. Deft and nuanced, incisive and erudite, her argument searchingly elaborates the cultural anxieties that these unions expressed while exploring the challenges that Americans faced once the vows were spoken. Until Choice Do Us Part provides an unusually rich resource for literary and cultural historians and for students of US social life.andrdquo;
andldquo;Until Choice Do Us Part
demonstrates that marriage reform was a central concern of early twentieth-century US public culture, a concern that fueled many of the eraandrsquo;s best-known novels.and#160; Without oversimplifying the strange political landscape of the early twentieth century, Clare Virginia Eby vividly captures the dynamism of the eraandrsquo;s thinking about marriage, monogamy, and divorce, drawing on novels as well as case studies of a few notorious marriages. Bold and nuanced, Until Choice Do Us Part
is interdisciplinary scholarship at its best, carefully tracing the interplay between marriageandrsquo;s political and economic underpinnings, its volatile intellectual surround, and some of the fascinating innovations at work in fictional and real-life marriages.andrdquo;
and#160;and#8220;Until Choice Do Us Part offers an insightful analysis of how and why writers depicted the changing institution of marriage in the Progressive Era. This elegantly written, well researched book explores how and why marriage underwent significant critique and revision, along with changing conceptions of gender, sexuality, and the family, at the turn of the twentieth century. A distinguishing feature of this engaging work is Eby's discussion of the connections between the form of the novel and the institution of marriage.and#160; This study offers new insight into marriage, the novel, and the nature of social change and helps to explain why fiction writing is a uniquely important social endeavor.and#8221;
andquot;As Eby shows in this rich and timely study, changes in fundamental attitudes toward marriage and divorce were both fervently advocated and hotly contested in the Progressive period.and#160; Analyzing the tensions between theory and practice inscribed in a wide range of texts, Until Choice Do Us Part persuasively argues that Progressive era debates over marital reform anticipate and even continue to shape twenty-first century and#160;position-taking about sexuality and marriage.andquot;
"...Ebyand#8217;s project...successfully bridges the history of the family, marriage, and sexuality with the history of progressivism through skilled literary analysis of often experimental, messy books and their authors.and#160;She demonstrates how marriage, traditionally viewed as a bulwark of conservative stability, might also be reimagined in diverse ways as a vessel for social transformation."
andldquo;Historians of social movements and of marriage will benefit from Ebyandrsquo;s fresh emphasis on the novel as a profoundly social tool of reform. . . . Until Choice Do Us Part is both compelling and enjoyable. . . . a persuasive and bracingly written account of marriage reform during the Progressive Era.andrdquo;
In this surprising landmark book, family historian Stephanie Coontz explodes every cherished assumption about marriage, starting with the notion of the traditional marriage. Forget Ozzie and Harriet. Coontz reveals that through most of history, marriage was not a relationship based on mutual love between a breadwinner husband and an at-home wife but an institution devoted to acquiring in-laws and improving the family labor force. How did marriage evolve from the loveless, arranged unions that have endured from the dawn of civilization into the sexualized, volatile relationships of today? Coontz argues that the Victorians, with their radical emphasis on marital intimacy and celebration of the individual, simultaneously made marriage more satisfying and paved the way for alternative lifestyles to thrive: divorce, gay marriage, living together, single parenting. The diminished role of heterosexual marriage in our society is not an aberration, insists Coontz, but the consequence of centuries of irrevocable social change. Marriage, A History is an engaging narrative of astonishing scope and depth that will stand as a milestone of social history and provoke debate for years to come.
Just when the clamor over "traditional" marriage couldn’t get any louder, along comes this groundbreaking book to ask, "What tradition?" In Marriage, a History, historian and marriage expert Stephanie Coontz takes readers from the marital intrigues of ancient Babylon to the torments of Victorian lovers to demonstrate how recent the idea of marrying for love is—and how absurd it would have seemed to most of our ancestors. It was when marriage moved into the emotional sphere in the nineteenth century, she argues, that it suffered as an institution just as it began to thrive as a personal relationship. This enlightening and hugely entertaining book brings intelligence, perspective, and wit to today’s marital debate.
About the Author
Stephanie Coontz is the Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families and teaches history and family studies at The Evergeen State College in Olympia, Washington. She divides her time between Makaha, Hawaii, and Washington. The author of the award-winning The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, she writes about marriage and family issues in many national journals including The Washington Post, Harper’s, Chicago Tribune, and Vogue. Her work has been translated into Japanese, German, French, and Spanish.
On the web: http://www.stephaniecoontz.com
Table of Contents
Part One: In Search of Traditional Marriage
Chapter 1: The Radical Idea of Marrying for Love
Chapter 2: The Many Meanings of Marriage
Chapter 3: The Invention of Marriage
Part Two: The Era of Political Marriage
Chapter 4: Soap Operas of the Ancient World
Chapter 5: Something Borrowed: The Marital Legacy of the Classical World and Early Christianity
Chapter 6: Playing the Bishop, Capturing the Queen: Aristocratic Marriages in Early Medieval Europe
Chapter 7: How the Other 95 Percent Wed: Marriage Among the Common Folk of the Middle Ages
Chapter 8: Something Old, Something New: Western European Marriage at the Dawn of the Modern Age
Part Three: The Love Revolution
Chapter 9: From Yoke Mates to Soul Mates: Emergence of the Love Match and the Male Provider Marriage
Chapter 10: "Two Birds Within One Nest": Sentimental Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Europe and North America
Chapter 11: "A Heaving Volcano": Beneath the Surface of Victorian Marriage
Chapter 12: "The Time When Mountains Move Has Come": From Sentimental to Sexual Marriage
Chapter 13: Making Do, Then Making Babies: Marriage in the Great Depression and World War II
Chapter 14: The Era of Ozzie and Harriet: The Long Decade of "Traditional" Marriage
Part Four: Courting Disaster? The Collapse of Universal and Lifelong Marriage
Chapter 15: Winds of Change: Marriage in the 1960s and 1970s
Chapter 16: The Perfect Storm: The Transformation of Marriage at the End of the Twentieth Century
Chapter 17: Uncharted Territory: How the Transformation of Marriage Is Changing Our Lives
Conclusion: Better or Worse? The Future of Marriage