Marriage is often described as a melding of two people into one.
But what-or who-must be lost, fragmented, or buried in that
process? We have inherited a model of marriage so flawed, Frances
E. Dolan contends, that its logical consequence is conflict.
Dolan ranges over sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Puritan advice
literature, sensational accounts of "true crime," and late
twentieth-century marriage manuals and films about battered women
who kill their abusers. She reads the inevitable Taming of the
Shrew against William Byrd's diary of life on his Virginia
plantation, Noel Coward's Private Lives, and Barbara
Ehrenreich's assessment in Nickel and Dimed of the
relationship between marriage and housework. She traces the
connections between Phillippa Gregory's best-selling novel The
Other Boleyn Girl and documents about Anne Boleyn's fatal
marriage and her daughter Elizabeth I's much-debated virginity. By
contrasting depictions of marriage in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries and our own time, she shows that the early modern
apprehension of marriage as an economy of scarcity continues to
haunt the present in the form of a conceptual structure that can
accommodate only one fully developed person. When two fractious
individuals assert their conflicting wills, resolution can be
achieved only when one spouse absorbs, subordinates, or eliminates
In an era when marriage remains hotly contested, this book draws
our attention to one of the histories that bears on the present, a
history in which marriage promises both intimate connection and
fierce conflict, both companionship and competition.
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