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by Louis-Georges Tin

The rise of heterosexual culture and the resistance it met from feudal lords, church fathers, and the medical profession.

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 of Heterosexual 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.

Download The Invention of Heterosexual Culture (The MIT Press) epub
ISBN: 0262017709
ISBN13: 978-0262017701
Category: Politics
Subcategory: Social Sciences
Author: Louis-Georges Tin
Language: English
Publisher: The MIT Press (August 17, 2012)
Pages: 216 pages
ePUB size: 1225 kb
FB2 size: 1806 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 238
Other Formats: lit mbr txt mobi

This is an excellent review of "how we got to today" when it comes to our understandings of that most important of all symbols, LOVE. I adopted this into a class so that students could understand how battles over what constitutes the "highest form of love" have unfolded over the past several centuries -- with the Catholic Church first at war against medieval notions of romantic courtly love and then gradually finding ways -- through doctrine and through influencing medical approaches -- to regulate the new upstart notions. Students can use this to track the evolution of LOVE on into the 20th century as forms of love once looked down upon battle for respect.
I have not finished this yet but so far it is filling in blanks and placing the parts of heteronormative history in France together.
This is an outstanding, very well-written, profound and at times extremely funny book. A major contribution to revisionist history. Should be in every school curriculum!
This book is recently translated from the French, and was published originally about 4 years ago. It is reminiscent in its originality of Foucault, but Tin's perspective is not sexuality in general, but heterosexuality in particular. That heterosexuality has a history, a cultural history, might not be clear to people, but it does--and its history is tied to the ebb and flow of views on homosocial relations. Tin's background is medieval French literature, but he builds an interesting case for the historical unfolding of views of heterosexuality since the middle ages. The book has limits and lacunae, but the last chapter, the conclusion of the book, lays out the issues remaining and sums up the perspective quite nicely. Recommended for anyone unacquainted with the French take on sexuality, but also especially for those who believe that heterosexuality is merely biological in nature and could not have had a history. Very fascinating book!
This book has its flaws, but its engaging and readable (even to the lay person). It's made me more interested in gender studies, and can appeal to a broader range of readers than most of what's written on the topic.
The potential dangers surrounding academic works covering an expansive period of time on sexuality (particularly those treating the French Middle Ages) engender rushed, over-stated assessments rather than nuanced, systematic reappraisals. I can assure you that Dr. Tin's treatment of the French Middle Ages -- as ambitious as it may be -- is problematic and over-generalized. He simply uses select "representative" texts to highlight his observations, whereas he neglects incorporating other pertinent sources that would challenge his stance. Furthermore, the fact that Dr. Tin assumes that medieval society operated the way medieval writers wrote about male-male relationships is a problematic assumption. For a nuanced assessment of sexuality, homoeroticism, and their relationship with heteronormativity, stick with the pioneers in the field: Duby, Gaunt, McCracken, Bloch, Boswell, and the like. Unfortunately, the author's analyses do not do justice to the potentially gripping theoretical and transhistorical stakes he claims.