The Invention of Heterosexual Culture

Overview

Heterosexuality is celebrated—in film and television, in pop songs and opera, in literature and on greeting cards—and at the same time taken for granted. It is the cultural and sexual norm by default. And yet, as Louis-Georges Tin shows in The Invention ofHeterosexual Culture, in premodern Europe heterosexuality was perceived as an alternative culture. The practice of heterosexuality may have been standard, but the symbolic primacy of the heterosexual couple was not. Tin maps the emergence of heterosexual culture...

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The Invention of Heterosexual Culture

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Overview

Heterosexuality is celebrated—in film and television, in pop songs and opera, in literature and on greeting cards—and at the same time taken for granted. It is the cultural and sexual norm by default. And yet, as Louis-Georges Tin shows in The Invention ofHeterosexual Culture, in premodern Europe heterosexuality was perceived as an alternative culture. The practice of heterosexuality may have been standard, but the symbolic primacy of the heterosexual couple was not. Tin maps the emergence of heterosexual culture in Western Europe and the significant resistance to it from feudal lords, church fathers, and the medical profession. Tin writes that before the phenomenon of "courtly love" in the early twelfth century, the man-woman pairing had not been deemed a subject worthy of more than passing interest. As heterosexuality became a recurrent theme in art and literature, the nobility came to view it as a disruption of the feudal chivalric ethos of virility and male bonding. If feudal lords objected to the "hetero" in heterosexuality and what they saw as the associated dangers of weakness and effeminacy, the church took issue with the "sexuality," which threatened the Christian ethos of renunciation and divine love. Finally, the medical profession cast heterosexuality as pathology, warning of an epidemic of "lovesickness."

Noting that the discourse of heterosexuality does not belong to heterosexuals alone, Tin offers a groundbreaking history that reasserts the cultural identity of heterosexuality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The author writes lucidly and engagingly, and succeeds in making heterosexual culture visible across a longue durée. In a final lively chapter, he demonstrates how, in the 20th century, even educationalists got in on the act, participating in the progressive
"heterosexualization" of French culture by, among other things, promoting eco-education over single-sex schooling… This ability to synthesise and to range widely sets Tin's book apart from previous studies aimed at divesting heterosexuality of its magic and claims to universality."
Times Higher Education

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262017701
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/31/2012
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 780,290
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis-Georges Tin, born in Martinique and now living in Paris, lectures in the arts faculty at the University of Orléans. He is the editor of The Dictionary of Homophobia, the founder of the Paris-based IDAHO Committee, which coordinates International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, and cofounder and spokesman for the Representative Council of Black Associations (CRAN).

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Part I Chivalric Opposition to Heterosexual Culture 1

1 The Middle Ages: From a Homosocial to a Heterosexual Culture 3

2 The Renaissance: The Continuing Conflict between Homosocial Tradition and Heterosexual Culture 33

3 The Seventeenth Century: The Triumph of Heterosexual Culture over Chivalric Opposition 47

Part II Ecclesiastical Opposition to Heterosexual Culture 51

4 The Medieval Church versus the Heterosexual Couple 53

5 The Renaissance: The Enduring Conflict between the Church and Heterosexual Culture 73

6 The Seventeenth Century: The Triumph of Heterosexual Culture over Ecclesiastical Opposition 93

7 The Twentieth Century: The Last Traces of Clerical Opposition 101

Part III Medical Opposition to Heterosexual Culture 113

8 Heterosexual Love and Medieval and Renaissance Medicine 115

9 The Seventeenth Century: From Lovesickness to Curative Love 125

10 The Twentieth Century: The Last Traces of Medical Opposition 129

Conclusion 155

Notes 165

Select Bibliography 179

About the Author 183

Index 185

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