Critiques of Marriage in Restoration France
Restoration writings reveal a widespread sense that contemporary marriage was unconducive to happiness. This anxiety was closely related to the rise of companionate marriage, often polemically opposed in this period to the arranged marriages of the Ancien Régime. Restoration literature explored this opposition through novels where lovers are separated by an ‘impediment’, some circumstance that renders their union impossible. Superficially conservative, Romantic authors (Nodier, Duras, d’Arlincourt) suggest that the stigma of such relationships cannot be overcome, and inevitably end with the death of one partner; while liberal novelists (Hortense Allart, Étienne de Jouy) end by rubbishing the impediment and uniting the lovers. Through a parallel with contemporary debates on same-sex marriage, the chapter suggests that while the liberal novelists propose small-scale reform but otherwise reinforce social norms, the ‘conservatives’ reveal a radical understanding of desire as a fundamentally antisocial force—highlighting the latent Romanticism of certain strains in queer theory.
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