Andreas Rydberg: "Tempering the marital mind: Mediating civic regimens of love and marriage in moral weeklies in mid-eighteenth-century Germany"

  • Date: –15:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Rausingrummet, hus 6
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Hanna Hodacs
  • Seminarium

The Higher Seminar

Abstract

This article contributes to the historiography of the emergence of the romantic marriage in the 18th century. While previous studies have often focused on representations of passionate love and marriage in romantic novels, the present study instead analyzes the mediation of marital love and happiness in moral weeklies in 18th-century Germany. Rather than representing passionate love affairs, these raise overarching questions about why so many marriages are unhappy and what can be done to establish and maintain marital love and happiness over time. Most marriages, the authors argue, tend to spiral into negative patterns of behavior that make them, as they put it, more like hell than heaven. To prevent and break such negative patterns, it was important to nurture and sustain marital love on a daily basis by constantly discovering and rediscovering each other’s qualities and skills. This work, it was argued, required making an effort to reflect and affirm each other while also practicing a kind of low arousal approach in conflict situations. In the face of outrage, one should thus temper one’s own mind, show understanding and indulgence, and in some cases withdraw to face the situation when calm again. The article shows that this apparently modern therapeutic approach to marital love and happiness was part of a civic morality in the making, a morality that pointed forward in the sense that it reflected an emerging civic, secular and individualistic identity while also pointing backward by being rooted in a long tradition of spiritual exercises and therapeutic regimes.

Keywords: love, marriage, identity, self, eighteenth-century Germany, early modern period