Friendship and Love, Ethics and Politics

Studies in Mediaeval and Early Modern History
ISBN: 
978-963-9776-60-9
paperback
$22.95 / €17.50 / £15.99
Publication date: 
2010
236 pages 130x200 mm (5.1" x 7.9")

Today, friendship, love and sexuality are mostly viewed as private, personal and informal relations. In the mediaeval and early modern period, just like in ancient times, this was different. The classical philosophy of friendship (Aristotle) included both friendship and love in the concept of philia. It was also linked to an argument about the virtues needed to become an excellent member of the city state. Thus, close relations were not only thought to be a matter of pleasant gatherings in privacy, but just as much a matter of ethics and politics.

What, then, happened to the classical ideas of close relations when they were transmitted to philosophers, clerical and monastic thinkers, state officials or other people in the medieval and early modern period? To what extent did friendship transcend the distinctions between private and public that then existed? How were close relations shaped in practice? Did dialogues with close friends help to contribute to the process of subject-formation in the Renaissance and Enlightenment? To what degree did institutions of power or individual thinkers find it necessary to caution against friendship or love and sexuality?

These are some of the questions raised in the book, on the basis of different European sources. The discussions touch upon changes in the distinctions between private and public, in subject-formation and legal practices, as well as the varying cultural, existential and ethical importance of close relations in history.

Each year one scholar of world fame is invited to present lectures in the framework of the Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Series at the Central European University, Budapest. This is the third volume in the series of published lectures.

Contents

Preface
Chapter 1. Friendship, Love, and Sexuality in Premodern Times. Themes and problems
Chapter 2. Challenging the Private–Public Dichotomy. Friendship in mediaeval and early modern society
Chapter 3. Me and My Friends. Individuality, friendship, and autobiography from Augustine to Rousseau
Chapter 4. Sexuality, Love, and Gender. The politics of heteronormativity in Reformation Sweden
Chapter 5. Close Relationships—then and now

Index

"When a scholar paints with such a broad brush as Österberg has done, it is inevitable that people will disagree on some of the smaller points. Overall, however, she makes her case well: ideas about friendship, love and sexuality are integral to society as a whole, they change over time, they are complex at any given time, and the most prominent of the chronological stories that can be traced is the emplacement of a distinct boundary between friendship and love. She concludes with an eloquent call to bring to bear the history of friendship on contemporary ideas about it. The nature of the book as lectures makes it a very quick and pleasurable read."

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