Introduction: “A nobility never interrupted”

  • Elizabeth Mazzola


The vicissitudes of family life really belong to history, just as the peculiar charms and snares of families ultimately comprise culture at large. Perhaps that is the most telling—and most easily overlooked—feature of family life, that its fortunes and failures cannot help but transpire in a larger world, one more defective or limited and finally more forbidding than the seemingly closed world of parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. Family history is driven by and experienced through the logic of culture.1 But families, I argue here, are poetic projects too: they have an internal logic, an ongoing if unspoken scheme for inviting affection and posting reward, for orienting members, drawing them into its circle while obscuring the world outside. The family straddles culture and biology, politics and eros.2 But it can only pretend to evade such awesome forces. Indeed, the family is neither a refuge nor a playground but a conflicted region crowded with all of the conditions of representation, the chief setting for mischief and passion, the first site and subject of all thought.3


Family Life Large World Early Modern Period Cultural Authority Family Secret 
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© Elizabeth Mazzola 2003

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  • Elizabeth Mazzola

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