Abstract

"Literature and the Right to Marriage," which bears the same title as the special issue that it introduces, takes up the challenge of the claim that marriage is a universal right. Framing the questions that traverse the five essays in the collection with a close reading of the sections on marriage from Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right, the authors argue that if marriage can be considered a right, this right both guarantees access to and is founded upon each partner's vow to abide by his or her vows to the other. Hegel's text is important because it underscores the linguistic dimension of the marriage ceremony; and it thus helps to show that, if the right to marriage were universal, it must be understood as the right to an irreplaceable kind of ritual speech. Moreover, this text is remarkably modern in its emphasis upon love as the condition of rightful marriage. Hegel considered the exchange of marriage vows to be a political event at which love becomes ethical (distinct from seduction), and ethics becomes political (distinct from morality and inseparable from civil society and the state); and thus also the point at which the model for "ethical love" becomes the verbally solemnized love between a man and a woman rather than the priestly love of the neighbor. Marriage, for Hegel, is always a turning point, both in the lives of the couple and in the history of the state. But this means that the importance of any marriage cannot be measured in terms of a norm; it can only be measured in terms of the amorous situation that precedes the event of marriage. Hegel's analyses are indispensable for grasping the stakes of the essays collected in this special issue and for addressing contemporary questions about which couples have the right to marry and what marriage becomes when those who would marry already have shared long and complex lives together.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 3-22
Launched on MUSE
2007-11-05
Open Access
No
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