Nearly everywhere and at all times, marriage has enjoyed a privileged status as the primary social unit—the essential bond that created alliances between families and a bridge between the sexes. In joining a man and woman, marriage attempted to hold men to collective social standards, including responsibility for the women they impregnated and the children they fathered, while also stringently hedging in women's sexuality. In short, marriage has always demanded that both men and women sacrifice a considerable measure of individual freedom. In marriage, "I" becomes "we," and "we" frequently extends beyond the couple to extended family, clan, and society. For these reasons, both political and religious authorities typically have taken great care to present marriage as an institution to which individual interests must be subordinated.
At the time of her death in January 2007, the celebrated historian Elizabeth Fox-Genovese was worried that these attitudes were in the process of being reversed. In this book, which she was in the midst of preparing for publication at the time of her passing, she argues that marriage is disintegrating under the rising demands that it serve not the good of the whole but the desires of the individual. A union that at one point was used to limit individual "rights" is now claimed as one right among many. The sexual liberation movements of the last forty years have seriously undermined marriage, argues Fox-Genovese, so much so that the institution seems to face the threat of extinction.
Even so, she writes, "Marriage for love—the promise of an enduring and engulfing bond between a man and a woman—is a dream that refuses to die. . . . It still promises that we will finally be loved as we long to be loved." That dream is the ultimate theme of this book, a fitting coda to Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's distinguished career.
What They're Saying...
“The phrase ‘a woman in full’ nicely catches the life and work of
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. Men and women who believe that, despite all,
the dream can be realized will gain understanding and confidence from
this book of wisdom.”
— (The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus editor in chief First Things
“Marriage: The Dream that Refuses to Die is destined to be a classic treatment of the nature, purpose, and future of marriage. By looking carefully at the history and cross-cultural functions of marriage, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese offers a profound and panoramic view of the institution of marriage in our day and in every day. Her clear-eyed treatment of marriage acknowledges that marriage can be a difficult and demanding institution for individuals; at the same time, Fox-Genovese points out that marriage is vital for the health of any civilization that aspires to greatness.”
— W. Bradford Wilcox author Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands
“Elizabeth Fox-Genovese’s last book belongs on anyone’s short list of very good books on marriage. She is particularly gifted at pointing to the incoherence and suffering produced buy our modern attempt to demote marriage to the status of a mere individual right.”
— Maggie Gallagher nationally syndicated columnist and author of The Abolition of Marriage
"The Well documented book opens with a fascinating history of marriage, in which Fox-Genovese notes that, despite countless differences among various cultures and religions throughout time, there has been agreement on basic premises about marriage. . . . This is an important book that uncovers a frightening truth: Marriage and family are at high risk."
— Loraine V. Murray The Georgia Bulletin
"The books title belie[s] what's inside: a serious, exacting analysis of the institution of marriage and the ways in which it remains under attack. . . . But Marriage is neither a sermon nor a self-help book; nor does it explicitly espouse any outdated notions of what a husband and wife ought to be. It is intellectualism, with a warning: Same -sex marriage, our society's unhealthy obsession with individualism, and our culture's devaluation of children will sound the death knell of marriage as a vital institution. . . . Her discussion of how love is portrayed in literature . . . is particularly fascinating. . . . Even though she is gone, and despite all the obstacles standing in its way, I suspect that the dream will live on, and so will this exceptional book."
— Erin Montgomery The American Spectator
"These essays and lectures have been wonderfully edited by Sheila O'Connor-Ambrose and truly communicate the passion espoused by the original author. Fox-Genovese believes in traditional marriage and advocates for marriage between a man and a woman. . . . She does this with sound reasoning and firm arguments but it is her charity and wit that may ultimately change the hearts of opponents. This beautiful book is both a brief history of the sociology of marriage and a theology of love."
— John-Leonard Berg Catholic Library World
"Fox-Genovese reminds us time and again of our interconnectedness. The fact of the matter is, when each marital thread is broken, the larger tapestry of society weakens. . . . Certainly this work nourishes scholarly discourse, but at least as important, it invites us to walk alongside the inner processes and experiences that have informed this scholar's personal evolution alongside a cultural evolution. This ultimately makes the book highly unique and valuable. This is the kind of moral courage I long to see modeled &%8212; to witness a sojourner's search for truth &58212; to study, learn, and grow personally and professionally; and then, to challenge those around them to do the same."
— Robbie Hutchens New Wineskins
"Although this book is titled Marriage: The Dream that Refuses to Die, this is not a book about dreams and romance. Instead, with the skills of an educator and the passion of a reformer, Elizabeth (Betsey) Fox-Genovese traces a history of the human desire to be loved as well as valued members of society."
— St. Anthony Messenger
"Its rigorous logic brims with delightfully anecdotal accounts of the 'historal, moral, and cultural foundations of marriage.'"
— New Oxford Review
"Based on lectures given by Fox-Genovese (Within the Plantation Household), the Emory University historian who died in 2007, Marriage has the strong sense of a passionate and personal speech. Fox-Genovese was firmly pro-marriage, and here she is unabashedly frank in her advocacy. Her broad, measured tone attempts to encompass a wide sweep of human experience and cultures and is just as concerned with modern marriage as its historical context. Fox-Genovese examines marriage as a societal question rather than simply a question of individual preference and comments on divorce, same-sex unions, the sexual revolution, and other issues affecting modern marriage."
— Elizabeth Morris Book Review
"Based on some of the last lectures historian Fox-Genovese (1941-2007) delivered, this little book concisely corrals her thought about marriage. One needn't be religious to be made more thoughtful, more mindful, by her arguments."
— Ray Olson, Booklist
"The rise of feminism, equal rights, and sexual liberation has had side effects that many do not view as wholly positive. Marriage; The Dream that Refuses to Die looks at the decomposition of one of the world's oldest institutions. Arguing that there is a possibility that the concept of marriage may eventually become a thing of the past, author Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's examination of the topic is thorough and knowledgeable, sure to grant readers all her wisdom on the subject. Marriage is highly recommended for any collection dedicated to relationships."
— Midwest Book Review
"Fox-Genovese calls for mature responsibility from adults, especially in the unrealistic, immature quest for happiness. Through her historical digging and reference to the Old Testament, she shows how marriage is a social and public issue as well — despite Trudeau's claim that the government has no business in the nation's bedrooms. Indeed, marriage is the bedrock of society and civilization. . . . She does not follow the typical feminist pattern of labeling women as victims of patriarchy and as therefore not responsible for history or the current society. In fact, by emphasizing the importance of marriage and the family, she shows how women can take greater responsibility for all of society."
— Catholic Insight