After the Divorce
Grazia Deledda Northwestern University Press, 1995 Library of Congress PQ4811.E6N313 1995 | Dewey Decimal 853.8
The novel begins with Costantino Ledda's conviction and sentencing for the murder of his cruel uncle. Though innocent of the crime, he accepts the guilty verdict as punishment for marrying Giovanna Era through a civil ceremony rather than an expensive church wedding. When her husband is taken away, Giovanna has no way to provide for herself, her mother, and her son, who soon dies of malnutrition. Out of desperation she divorces Costantino, according to a new law for wives of convicts, and marries a wealthy but brutish landowner. When the true murderer confesses and Costantino returns, he and Giovanna begin a forbidden and ultimately destructive affair.
Deleda's tragic story of poverty, passion, and guilt portrays the primitive and remote world of the church, pre-Christian superstitions, and laws dictated from the mainland, in her native Sardinia, where society hangs in a delicate balance. Once this order is disrupted, none of these characters can escape the spiral of destruction dictated by fate, God, and society.
Finalist for the 2015 Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize for outstanding book on African women’s experiences
Conjugal Rights is a history of the role of marriage and other arrangements between men and women in Libreville, Gabon, during the French colonial era, from the mid–nineteenth century through 1960. Conventional historiography has depicted women as few in number and of limited influence in African colonial towns, but this book demonstrates that a sexual economy of emotional, social, legal, and physical relationships between men and women indelibly shaped urban life.
Bridewealth became a motor of African economic activity, as men and women promised, earned, borrowed, transferred, and absconded with money to facilitate interpersonal relationships. Colonial rule increased the fluidity of customary marriage law, as chiefs and colonial civil servants presided over multiple courts, and city residents strategically chose the legal arena in which to arbitrate a conjugal-sexual conflict. Sexual and domestic relationships with European men allowed some African women to achieve a greater degree of economic and social mobility. An eventual decline of marriage rates resulted in new sexual mores, as women and men sought to rebalance the roles of pleasure, respectability, and legality in having sex outside of kin-sanctioned marriage.
Rachel Jean-Baptiste expands the discourse on sexuality in Africa and challenges conventional understandings of urban history beyond the study of the built environment. Marriage and sexual relations determined how people defined themselves as urbanites and shaped the shifting physical landscape of Libreville. Conjugal Rights takes a fresh look at questions of the historical construction of race and ethnicity. Despite the efforts of the French colonial government and society to enforce boundaries between black and white, interracial sexual and domestic relationships persisted. Black and métisse women gained economic and social capital from these relationships, allowing some measure of freedom in the colonial capital city.
Edwardian Stories of Divorce
Harris, Janice H Rutgers University Press, 1996 Library of Congress PR808.D58H37 1996 | Dewey Decimal 306.89094109041
Much as abortion in the United States today is a contentious issue used for scripting women's roles and potential into the national agenda, divorce was an issue dividing England in the Edwardian era. According to Janice Harris, anything and everything, from illicit sex and family values to the Garden of Eden, wrath of children, poverty of women, nature of cruelty, scandal of America, threat of Germany, and future of England were part of the debate over divorce. Living under marriage laws far more restrictive than those of their Protestant neighbors, Edwardian women and men campaigned for reform with a barrage of compelling stories. Organizing her analysis around three major sources of narrative on divorce––the Sunday papers, the Report of the Royal Commission on Divorce and Matrimonial causes, and the novel––Harris uncovers a war of words and a competition of tales. In raising questions about the winners, losers, and spoils, Harris expands our understanding of the history of divorce, the wars between the sexes, and the political import of those wars.
In the end, she presents a complex and lively story herself, one that illuminates battles over marriage and divorce taking place in our own era as well. This humane book on a long-neglected subject marks an important contribution to narrative studies and Edwardian history.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the divorce rate in the United States rose by a staggering 2,000 percent. To understand this dramatic rise, Elaine Tyler May studied over one thousand detailed divorce cases. She found that contrary to common assumptions, divorce was not simply a by-product of women's increasing economic and sexual independence, or a rebellion against marriage. Rather, thwarted hopes for fulfillment in the public sphere drove both men and women to wed at a greater rate and to bring higher expectations to their marriages.
The bitter and public court battle waged between Nina and James Walker of Newport, Rhode Island from 1909 to 1916 created a sensation throughout the nation with lurid accounts of—and gossip about—their marital troubles. The ordeal of this high-society couple, who wed as much for status as for love, is one of the prime examples of the growing trend of women seeking divorce during the early twentieth century.
Gross Misbehavior and Wickedness—the charges Nina levied at James for his adultery (with the family governess) and extreme cruelty—recounts the protracted legal proceedings in juicy detail.
Jean Elson uses court documents, correspondence, journals, and interviews with descendants to recount the salacious case. In the process, she underscores how divorce—in an era when women needed husbands for economic support—was associated with women’s aspirations for independence and rights. The Walkers’ dispute, replete with plot twists and memorable characters, sheds light on a critical period in the evolution of American culture.
How do "no-fault," "gender-neutral" divorce reforms actually harm the lives of women and children they are designed to protect? Focusing on the language and symbols of reform, Martha Fineman argues that by advocating measures based on equality of treatment rather than of outcome, liberal feminists disregarded the socioeconomic factors that simultaneously place women at a disadvantage in the market and favor their taking on primary domestic responsibilities. She traces in persuasive detail the detrimental effects of equality rhetoric in shaping divorce law — such as the legal separation of parents' and children's interests; equality replacing need as the prime criterion for settlements; and the increase of state intervention into family life. More than a critique, this book is an incisive argument for adopting outcome-oriented measures and a valuable overview of the pitfalls of uncritically implementing any rhetoric as social policy.
In many ways, divorce is a quintessentially personal decision—the choice to leave a marriage that causes harm or feels unfulfilling to the two people involved. But anyone who has gone through a divorce knows the additional public dimensions of breaking up, from intense shame and societal criticism to friends’ and relatives’ unsolicited advice. In Intimate Disconnections, Allison Alexy tells the fascinating story of the changing norms surrounding divorce in Japan in the early 2000s, when sudden demographic and social changes made it a newly visible and viable option. Not only will one of three Japanese marriages today end in divorce, but divorces are suddenly much more likely to be initiated by women who cite new standards for intimacy as their motivation. As people across Japan now consider divorcing their spouses, or work to avoid separation, they face complicated questions about the risks and possibilities marriage brings: How can couples be intimate without becoming suffocatingly close? How should they build loving relationships when older models are no longer feasible? What do you do, both legally and socially, when you just can’t take it anymore?
Relating the intensely personal stories from people experiencing different stages of divorce, Alexy provides a rich ethnography of Japan while also speaking more broadly to contemporary visions of love and marriage during an era in which neoliberal values are prompting wide-ranging transformations in homes across the globe.
ChaeRan Freeze explores the impact of various forces on marriage and divorce among Jews in 19th-century Russia. Challenging romantic views of the Jewish family in the shtetl, she shows that divorce rates among Russian Jews in the first half of the century were astronomical compared to the non-Jewish population. Even more surprising is her conclusion that these divorce rates tended to drop later in the century, in contrast to the rising pattern among populations undergoing modernization. Freeze also studies the growing involvement of the Tsarist state. This occurred partly at the behest of Jewish women contesting patriarchy and parental power and partly because the government felt that Jewish families were in complete anarchy and in need of order and regulation. Extensive research in newly-declassified collections from twelve archives in Russia, Ukraine, and Lithuania enables Freeze to reconstruct Jewish patterns of marriage and divorce and to analyze the often conflicting interests of Jewish husbands and wives, rabbinic authorities, and the Russian state. Balancing archival resources with memoirs and printed sources in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian, she offers a tantalizing glimpse of the desires and travails of Jewish spouses, showing how individual life histories reflect the impact of modernization on Jewish matchmaking, gender relations, the "emancipation" of Jewish women, and the incursion of the Tsarist state into the lives of ordinary Jews.
Legislating the French Family examines family law reform in France from the foundation of the Third Republic in 1870 to the aftermath of World War I in 1920. Combining literary and historical approaches, Jean Elisabeth Pedersen provides a unique perspective on the political culture of modern France, analyzing French "problem" plays and their reception both as a measure of public opinion and as a force for social change. This new approach reveals the complex cultural narratives within, against, and in spite of which feminists, journalists, medical experts, playwrights, and politicians contended. Pedersen’s work demonstrates how republican political debates over divorce, illegitimacy, abortion, and birth control both provoked and responded to larger arguments about the meanings of French citizenship, national identity, and imperial expansion. She argues that these debates complicated the idea of French citizenship, exposed the myth of the supposedly ungendered individual citizen, and reveal to us the intricate intersections among conflicts over family law, sexual politics, class structure, religious belief, republican citizenship, national identity, and imperial policy.
Israel currently has two recognized systems of law operating side by side: civil and religious. Israeli religious courts possess the exclusive right to conduct and terminate marriages. There is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, irrespective of one’s religious inclinations. All Muslims must marry and divorce in accordance with shariya laws, all Catholics in accordance with canon law, and all Jews in accordance with Torah law (halakha). The interpretation and implementation of Torah law is in the hands of the Orthodox religious establishment, the only stream of Judaism that enjoys legal recognition in Israel. The rabbinic courts strenuously oppose any changes to this so-called status quo arrangement between religious and secular authorities. In fact, religious courts in Israel are currently pressing for expanded jurisdiction beyond personal status, stressing their importance to Israel’s growing religious community. This book shows how religious courts, based on centuries-old patriarchal law, undermine the full civil and human rights of Jewish women in Israel. Making a broad argument for civil marriage and divorce in Israel, the authors also emphasize that religious marriages and divorces, when they do occur, must benefit from legislation that makes divorce easier to obtain. Making this issue their focal point, they speak to a larger question: Is Israel a democracy or a theocracy?
Using an intersectional approach, Marriage, Divorce, and Distress in Northeast Brazil explores rural, working-class, black Brazilian women’s perceptions and experiences of courtship, marriage and divorce. In this book, women’s narratives of marriage dissolution demonstrate the ways in which changing gender roles and marriage expectations associated with modernization and globalization influence the intimate lives and the health and well being of women in Northeast Brazil. Melanie A. Medeiros explores the women’s rich stories of desire, love, respect, suffering, strength, and transformation.
Today, when fifty percent of couples who marry eventually get divorced, it's clear that we have moved from a culture in which "marriage is forever" to one in which "marriage is contingent." Author Karla Hackstaff looks at intact marriages to examine the impact of new expectations in a culture of divorce.
Marriage in a Culture of Divorce examines the shifting meanings of divorce and gender for two generations of middle-class, married couples. Hackstaff finds that new social and economic conditions both support and undermine the efforts of spouses to redefine the meaning of marriage in a culture of divorce. The definitions of marriage, divorce, and gender have changed for all, but more for the young than the old, and more for women than for men. While some spouses in both generations believe that marriage is for life and that men should dominate in marriage, the younger generation of spouses increasingly construct marriage as contingent rather than forever.
Hackstaff presents this evidence in archival case studies of couples married in the 1950s, which she then contrasts with her own case studies of people married during the 1970s, finding evidence of a significant shift in who does the emotional work of maintaining the relationship. It is primarily the woman in the '50s couples who "monitors" the marriage, whereas in the '70s couples both husband and wife support a "marital work ethic," including couples therapy in some cases.
The words and actions of the couples Hackstaff follows in depth - the '50s Stones, Dominicks, Hamptons, and McIntyres, and the '70s Turners, Clement-Leonettis, Greens, Kason-Morrises, and Nakatos -- reveal the changes and contradictory tendencies of married life in the U.S. There are traditional relationships characterized by male dominance, there are couples striving for gender equality, there are partners pulling together, and partners pulling apart.
Those debating "family values" should not forget, Hackstaff contends, that there are costs associated with marriage culture as well as divorce culture, and they should view divorce as a transitional means for defining marriage in an egalitarian direction. She convincingly illustrates her controversial position, that although divorce has its cost to society, the divorce culture empowers wives and challenges the legacy of male dominance that previously set the conditions for marriage endurance.
More Perfect Unions
Rebecca L. Davis Harvard University Press, 2010 Library of Congress HQ10.5.U6D38 2010 | Dewey Decimal 362.8286
The American fixation with marriage, so prevalent in today’s debates over marriage for same-sex couples, owes much of its intensity to a small group of reformers who introduced Americans to marriage counseling in the 1930s. Today, millions of couples seek help to save their marriages each year. Over the intervening decades, marriage counseling has powerfully promoted the idea that successful marriages are essential to both individuals’ and the nation’s well-being.
Rebecca Davis reveals how couples and counselors transformed the ideal of the perfect marriage as they debated sexuality, childcare, mobility, wage earning, and autonomy, exposing both the fissures and aspirations of American society. From the economic dislocations of the Great Depression to more recent debates over government-funded “Healthy Marriage” programs, counselors have responded to the shifting needs and goals of American couples. Tensions among personal fulfillment, career aims, religious identity, and socioeconomic status have coursed through the history of marriage and explain why the stakes in the institution are so fraught for the couples involved and for the communities to which they belong.
Americans care deeply about marriages—their own and other people’s—because they have made enormous investments of time, money, and emotion to improve their own relationships and because they believe that their personal decisions about whom to marry or whether to divorce extend far beyond themselves. This intriguing book tells the uniquely American story of a culture gripped with the hope that, with enough effort and the right guidance, more perfect marital unions are within our reach.
Raw Edges: A Memoir
Phyllis Barber University of Nevada Press, 2012 Library of Congress CT275.B3675A3 2009 | Dewey Decimal 306.893092
When Phyllis Barber’s thirty-three-year marriage ended, she had to redefine herself as a woman, a mother, and an artist. Raw Edges is her moving account of the “lean years” that followed her divorce. It is interwoven with a narrative of the marriage of two gifted people that begins with “sealing” in a Mormon temple, endures through the birth of four sons and the development of two careers, and founders when the couple’s personal needs no longer match their aspirations or the rigid strictures of Mormon life. Raw Edges reflects the predicament that many women experience as their marriages disintegrate and they fail to achieve their own expectations as well as those set by their society and their faith. It is also a story of hope, of how a woman overcome by grief and confusion eventually finds a new approach to life.
Even in our world of redefined life partnerships and living arrangements, most marriages begin through sacred ritual connected to a religious tradition. But if marriage rituals affirm deeply held religious and secular values in the presence of clergy, family, and community, where does divorce, which severs so many of these sacred bonds, fit in? Sociologist Kathleen Jenkins takes up this question in a work that offers both a broad, analytical perspective and a uniquely intimate view of the role of religion in ending marriages.
For more than five years, Jenkins observed religious support groups and workshops for the divorced and interviewed religious practitioners in the midst of divorces, along with clergy members who advised them. Her findings appear here in the form of eloquent and revealing stories about individuals managing emotions in ways that make divorce a meaningful, even sacred process. Clergy from mainline Protestant denominations to Baptist churches, Jewish congregations, Unitarian fellowships, and Catholic parishes talk about the concealed nature of divorce in their congregations. Sacred Divorce describes their cautious attempts to overcome such barriers, and to assemble meaningful symbols and practices for members by becoming compassionate listeners, delivering careful sermons, refitting existing practices like Catholic annulments and Jewish divorce documents (gets), and constructing new rituals.
With attention to religious, ethnic, and class variations, covering age groups from early thirties to mid-sixties and separations of only a few months to up to twenty years, Sacred Divorce offers remarkable insight into individual and cultural responses to divorce and the social emotions and spiritual strategies that the clergy and the faithful employ to find meaning in the breach. At once a sociological document, an ethnographic analysis, and testament of personal experience, Sacred Divorce provides guidance, strategies and answers to readers looking for answers and those looking to heal.
Conflict and controversy usually accompany major social changes in America. Such issues as civil rights, abortion, and the proposed Equal Rights Amendment provoke strong and divisive reactions, attract extensive media coverage, and generate heated legislative debate. Some theorists even claim that only mobilization and publicity can stimulate significant legislative change. How is it possible, then, that a wholesale revamping of American divorce law occurred with scarcely a whisper of controversy and without any national debate? This is the central question posed—and authoritatively answered—in Herbert Jacob's Silent Revolution.
Since 1966, divorce laws in the United States have undergone a radical transformation. No-fault divorce is now universally available. Alimony functions simply as a brief transitional payment to help a dependent spouse become independent. Most states divide assets at divorce according to a community property scheme, and, whenever possible, many courts prefer to award custody of children to the mother and the father jointly.
These changes in policy represent a profound departure from traditional American values, and yet the legislation by which they were enacted was treated as a technical correction of minor problems. No-fault divorce, for example, was a response to the increasing number of fraudulent divorce petitions. Since couples were often forced to manufacture the evidence of guilt that many states required, and since judges frequently looked the other way, legal reformers sought no more than to bring divorce statutes into line with current practice.
On the basis of such observations, Jacob formulates a new theory of routine—as opposed to conflictual—policy-making processes. Many potentially controversial policies—divorce law reforms among them—pass unnoticed in America because legislators treat them as matters of routine. Jacob's is indeed the most plausible account of the enormous number and steady flow of policy decisions made by state legislatures. It also explains why no attention was paid to the effect divorce reform would have on divorced women and their children, a subject that has become increasingly controversial and that, consequently, is not likely to be handled by the routine policy-making process in the future.
Mary Poovey's The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer has become a standard text in feminist literary discourse. In Uneven Developments Poovey turns to broader historical concerns in an analysis of how notions of gender shape ideology.
Asserting that the organization of sexual difference is a social, not natural, phenomenon, Poovey shows how representations of gender took the form of a binary opposition in mid-Victorian culture. She then reveals the role of this opposition in various discourses and institutions—medical, legal, moral, and literary. The resulting oppositions, partly because they depended on the subordination of one term to another, were always unstable. Poovey contends that this instability helps explain why various institutional versions of binary logic developed unevenly. This unevenness, in turn, helped to account for the emergence in the 1850s of a genuine oppositional voice: the voice of an organized, politicized feminist movement.
Drawing on a wide range of sources—parliamentary debates, novels, medical lectures, feminist analyses of work, middle-class periodicals on demesticity—Poovey examines various controversies that provide glimpses of the ways in which representations of gender were simultaneously constructed, deployed, and contested. These include debates about the use of chloroform in childbirth, the first divorce law, the professional status of writers, the plight of governesses, and the nature of the nursing corps. Uneven Developments is a contribution to the feminist analysis of culture and ideology that challenges the isolation of literary texts from other kinds of writing and the isolation of women's issues from economic and political histories.
The Catholic Church of early modern Europe intended the sacrament of matrimony to represent a lifelong commitment, and it allowed few grounds for the dissolution of an unhappy marriage. One was nonconsummation owing to the sexual impotency of one of the partners. Even then, an annulment was granted only after a church court had conducted a lengthy investigation of the case, soliciting testimony from numerous witnesses as well as from the aggrieved couple, and had subjected the allegedly impotent spouse (and sometimes both spouses) to an intimate physical examination.
Edward J. Behrend-Martinez has studied the transcripts of eighty-three impotency trials conducted by the ecclesiastical court of Calahorra (La Rioja), a Spanish diocese with urban and rural parishes, both Basque and Castilian. From these records, he draws a detailed, fascinating portrait of private life and public sexuality in early modern Europe. These trials were far more than a salacious inquiry into the intimate details of other people’s lives. The church valued marital sex as a cornerstone of stable society, intended not only for procreation but also for maintaining domestic harmony. Every couple’s sex life, however private in practice or intention, was a matter of public and ecclesiastical concern.
Unfit for Marriage offers vivid accounts of marital sex and the role that property, gender, and personal preference played in marriage in early modern Europe. It is essential reading for anyone interested in social history, sexuality, gender studies, canon law, legal history, and the history of divorce in western Europe.