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Friendship and Love, Ethics and Politics

Studies in Mediaeval and Early Modern History

By Eva Osterberg

Publication Year: 2010

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?

Published by: Central European University Press

Series: The Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Ser

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. 1-4

The Natalie Zemon Davis annual lecture series at the Central European University has given me the opportunity to reformulate in English some of the interpretations of friendship, love, and sexuality in premodern...

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Chapter 1 - Friendship, Love, and Sexuality in Premodern Times: Themes and problems

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pp. 5-22

As Michel Foucault said, we academics ought always to ask ourselves why something suddenly becomes a scholarly issue. Why do we begin to mull over something that until then had appeared natural and selfevident? Why when faced with a given situation does...

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Chapter 2 - Challenging the Private–-Public Dichotomy: Friendship in mediaeval and early modern society

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pp. 23-90

Acknowledgement of the historical relevance of the private–public dichotomy is often associated with Jürgen Habermas’s influential theory, focusing as it does on the bourgeois public sphere in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In his view, this...

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Chapter 3 - Me and My Friends: Individuality, friendship, and autobiography from Augustine to Rousseau

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pp. 91-146

My themes in this chapter are individuality, autobiography, and friendship. The combination of individuality and autobiography is hardly surprising. Autobiographies are usually regarded as the best place for authors to reflect upon themselves as unique persons...

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Chapter 4 - Sexuality, Love, and Gender: The politics of heteronormativity in Reformation Sweden

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pp. 147-186

As in the rest of Scandinavia, the great narrative of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Sweden tells us about religious reformation and state-formation, defined as a process in which the State took a firm grip on fiscal and military resources, the administration of...

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Chapter 5 - Close Relationships—Then and Now

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pp. 187-206

In the previous chapters I set out to show how premodern love and friendship, both as ideals and in the full diversity of reality, were not only important in private life, but also in public life. The focus of my analysis has been the ways that philosophers, writers...


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pp. 207-220


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pp. 221-230

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9786155211799
Print-ISBN-13: 9789639776609

Page Count: 238
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: The Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lecture Ser