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Single: Arguments for the Uncoupled

Michael Cobb
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 239
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Everyone, it seems, must be (or must want to be) in a couple. To exist outside of the couple is to assume an antisocial position that is ruthlessly discouraged because being in a couple is the way most people bind themselves to the social. Singles might just be the single most reviled sexual minorities today.Single:Arguments for the Uncoupled offers a polemic account of this supremacy of the couple form, and how that supremacy blocks our understanding of the single. Michael Cobb reads the figurative language surrounding singleness as it traverses an eclectic set of literary, cultural, philosophical, psychoanalytical, and popular culture objects from Plato, Freud, Ralph Ellison, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, Barack Obama, Emily Dickinson, Morrissey, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Hannah Arendt to the Bible, Sex and the City, Bridget Jones' Diary, Beyonce's Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It), and HBO's Big Love. Within these flights of fancy, poetry, fiction, strange moments in film and video, paintings made in the desert, bits of song, and memoirs of hiking in national parks, Cobb offers an inspired, eloquent rumination on the single, which is guaranteed to spark conversation and consideration.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-9049-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Bitter Table for One
    (pp. 1-40)

    On her deathbed, my grandma Jewell commanded me to do something she (and the whole world) had been commanding me to do my entire teen and adult life: find someone to love. By “someone,” she didn’t mean friends, colleagues, pets, ideas, beliefs, or things. She meant a “significant other,” a person with whom I could settle down, get married, have sex—definitely share a life. This command, which I never could quite convince her I was obeying, was always coupled with the following threat:

    “Michael, you don’t want to die alone!”

    Of course, these comments were inspired by her faith...

  5. 1 The Inevitable Fatality of the Couple
    (pp. 41-68)

    As I suggested in this book’s introduction, couple love is an ideological apprenticeship in loneliness—a loneliness so upsetting that it’s often displaced onto singles. But if you don’t believe me, pick up a book. Watch a movie. Listen to a song. Or spend any amount of time wondering about the person you love that you can’t live without. And then think about all the lonely hearts out there that seem to have it worse. In this chapter, I’d like to indulge in some lonely words about what it means to be in love, or, more precisely, in a love...

  6. 2 The Probated Couple, or Our Polygamous Pioneers
    (pp. 69-104)

    Couples are not alone in the grip of loneliness’s totalitarianism. Couples often create and leave a special residue, which marks their endurance in time: children, relatives, and all sorts of relations that stick to the dyad (“she has her mother’s nose”; “his name will live on”). Couples are the building blocks of family, and as such they are inextricably wed to the thought of family, To understand a family, you need to start with the couple. Or perhaps a number of couples.

    First I have to confess: families terrify me, and not simply because I came from one. Nor is...

  7. 3 The Shelter of Singles
    (pp. 105-156)

    This chapter is about two men, from two canonical pieces of prose, from two centuries, who aren’t lovers. Not with each other. Not with anyone. They are a couple of men who won’t couple. It’s precisely this rejection that stabs at the heart of what a single person can say to the couples of this world and the next: couples that refuse, or are too fearful, to let a single person just be. In front of us, we’ll soon have Herman Melville’s notoriously and delightfully enigmatic Bartle by. But first we’ll wonder about Ralph Ellison’s narrator-protagonist from his masterpiece,Invisible...

  8. 4 Welcome to the Desert of Me
    (pp. 157-202)

    It’s late 1990, and you’re watching MTV. On the screen, you’re mesmerized by an undulating, very pale man, draped in an ill-fitting black, diaphanously sheer shirt, which is almost always about to fall or twist off, much to the titillation of his fanatical fan base. Out of all the bewildering images, you might choose now to pause and wonder why only one of his nipples is covered with a single band-aid. He’s filmed alone in this Tim Broad video, in Death Valley National Park, in the vicinity of its famous Mushroom Rock. In a very recognizable, arch-baritone voice, Morrissey croons...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 203-216)
  10. Index
    (pp. 217-226)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 227-227)