Emory Report
February 12, 2007
Volume 59, Number 19

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February 12, 2007
MARIAL lecture traces the transformation of love, marriage throughout history

Noted author and historian Stephanie Coontz will trace the surprising developments in the history of marriage in a public lecture, “Courting Trouble? The World Historic Transformation of Love and Marriage” at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20 in White Hall, Room 206. The event is sponsored by Emory University’s Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life.

Marriage has changed more in the past 35 years than the previous 3,500 years, according to Coontz. As individuals and as a society, she says, we are still trying to sort out the consequences of these changes and how to cope with them.

For thousands of years, marriage was not about love and mutual respect but about property, power and male dominance. It was only 200 years ago that love began to be central to the definition of marriage, and only 100 years ago that the long march to equality between men and women began, she says. Today, says Coontz, marriage has become fairer and more fulfilling than in the past, but also more optional and fragile.

Coontz teaches history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and is director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, which she chaired from 2001 to 2004. She is the author of “Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage;” “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap;” “The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America’s Changing Families;” and “The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American Families.” She also edited “American Families: A Multicultural Reader.” Her work has been translated into French, Spanish, German and Japanese.

The MARIAL Center is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, one of five Sloan Centers on Working Families. The Emory center focuses its research on the functions and significance of ritual and myth in middle-class families in which both parents work outside the home.

This event is free and open to the public. Call 404-727-3149 or visit http://www.marial.emory.edu for more information.