Thursday, July 26, 2012

Five best works that explore marriage

Edward Mendelson is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and author of books including Early Auden and The Things That Matter: What Seven Classic Novels Have to Say About the Stages of Life. In 2008 he named a five best list of "works [that] explore marriage with uncommon clarity" for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on his list:
Love in the Western World (1940)
by Denis de Rougemont

This swift and sweeping history of eight centuries of romantic passion, from "Tristan and Iseult" to the modern novel of adultery, is more thrilling than most novels, and it is memorably clarifying about the emotional and erotic turmoil of entering adulthood. The book shows how romantic passion, in its most extreme form, can be satisfied only by the death of the lovers: Romeo and Juliet, like all their literary ancestors and heirs, prefer the intense purity of sudden death to the long, humdrum ordinariness of marriage. De Rougemont argues that marriages fail when the partners want a romance that can continue through a lifetime but succeed when the partners recognize that marriage can be more complex, more satisfying and more intense than even the brightest sudden flare of romance. Among the many surprises in this book, written a few months before the start of World War II, is its argument that modern warfare, with its unrelenting goal of total victory, emerged from the same frame of mind that produced the ideal of modern romance.
Read about the other works on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue