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Old Bonds, New Contracts and the Problem of Marriage

ENGL 359.302
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

                        In the Second Treatise of Government,  John Locke  argues  that the world belongs to the “industrious and rational” and also that marriage should be a contract between  a man and a woman  that  lasts only  until the children are grown  and then  can  be dissolved.   It is hard not to connect these two statements and wonder if Locke saw marriage as a sort of  life-recess, after which  one could get down to the business of being really rational and really industrious.  Before Locke,  however,  when everything was connected to everything else, marriage was an important step in tying a couple to the universe.  In this course, we will  first look at authors who regarded marriage as a bond and then at authors, who,  after Locke and with the secularization of morality in a world that needed to work,  re-examined marriage-as-a-bond,  sometimes with skepticism,  sometimes with the hope that it could be preserved.    
 
Chaucer’s “Marriage Tales” from The Canterbury Tales;  Shakespeare’s As You Like It;  sections of Milton’s Paradise Lost;  Flaubert’s Madame Bovary; Eliot’s  Middlemarch; Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina;  and James’s Portrait of a Lady;  some poems;  some excerpts from philosophers.
 
Students would be well advised to launch themselves into Middlemarch  ( pub. Penguin) and Anna Karenina  (trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky, pub. Penguin),  both available very cheaply on Amazon.