Rather than see love as a natural form of affection, Love As Human Freedom sees love as a practice that changes over time through which new social realities are brought into being. Love brings about, and helps us to explain, immense social-historical shifts—from the rise of feminism and the emergence of bourgeois family life, to the struggles for abortion rights and birth control and the erosion of a gender-based division of labor. Drawing on Hegel, Paul A. Kottman argues that love generates and explains expanded possibilities for freely lived lives. Through keen interpretations of the best known philosophical and literary depictions of its topic—including Shakespeare, Plato, Nietzsche, Ovid, Flaubert, and Tolstoy—his book treats love as a fundamental way that we humans make sense of temporal change, especially the inevitability of death and the propagation of life.
About the author
Paul A. Kottman is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the New School for Social Research. He is the author of A Politics of the Scene (Stanford, 2007) and the editor of Philosophers on Shakespeare (Stanford, 2009).
"Love As Human Freedom proposes theses that are breathtaking in their sweep. We have here a kind of philosophical-historical cultural anthropology that is very clear, often elegant, and quite direct in proposing its ambitious claims, with brilliant discussions that are deeply felt and finely argued. Paul Kottman engages with every conceivable interlocutor on his subjects, and his scholarship is world-class, just superb."
—Robert Pippin, University of Chicago
"Love As Human Freedom is a risk-taking and ambitious book that makes a series of interlocking, counter-intuitive arguments. Love is not, Paul Kottman claims, inescapably bound up with the irrational; on the contrary, it is the way we have taught ourselves that we are both rational and free. And the path to the freedom love brings passes, he proposes, through the valley of the shadow of gender domination and death. Along the way, Kottman offers challenging reflections on the myths of Orpheus and Eurydice and of Tristan and Isolde, as well as readings of Romeo and Juliet and Othello. A wild ride."
—Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern