Liberalism and marriage are not easily separated from anti-libertine and libertine ideas. This article frames the meaning of marriage question by comparing Tolstoy’s anti-libertine novella, The Kreutzer Sonata with Roth?s libertine novella, The Dying Animal. Both novellas impale marriage and liberalism to reveal the strains of ambivalence toward freedom of love, sex, and personal attachments. In Tolstoy’s novella, Pozdnyshev reviles marriage because it is nothing more than licensed prostitution. In Roth’s novella, Kepesh despises marriage because it dampens sex and subjects the individual to constraints. The author offers two readings of these novellas, one that emphasizes the boundaries between liberal, libertine, and anti-libertine thought, and another that collapses the boundaries to reveal an overlap in their stances on liberty, love, sex, and marriage. In the first reading, these two seemingly opposite novellas are compared to their similarities because both contain the same story of what sex leads to-sexual dependency, possessiveness, jealousy, and death. In the second reading, the collapse of libertinism and anti-libertinism produces an ambivalence regarding the relationship of liberty to love and desire. The author concludes that the current debate on marriage expresses this ambivalence because it requires a theory that explains acceptable limits on sex and the institution that should place those limits.
Nomi M. Stolzenberg,
Liberals and Libertines: The Marriage Question in the Liberal Political Imagination,
San Diego L. Rev.
Available at: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol42/iss3/12