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A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual,…

A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual, and the Quest for Family Values (1996)

by John R. Gillis

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Lady Wombat says:

Gillis asks readers to recognize the difference between the families that we live “with,” and the families that we live “by” – there are actual social, historical, families, but there are also the culturally constructed visions of families that we all contend with. Gillis examines the cultural construction of the Western family, moving away from biology and sociology, using an anthropological approach. The book’s first section examines the meaning of family in Western Europe before the modern age; the second section relates the changes in said meanings during the Victorian period, and the final section discusses the cultural construction of major family figures in more detail (a chapter each on the “perfect couple”; the mother, the father, and the dead). The book concludes by exploring the present-day implications of past constructions of the family.

The book is filled with fascination information, which gives much food for thought about the things we take as “natural” about families and the way they work. Gillis synthesizes the work of myriad previous scholars to give a clear sense of the vast differences between our present-day understandings of families and the ideas of those in the past. Gillis is less effective in explaining the “whys” behind the shifts that occurred in the construction of the ideological family, but as the first person to take a cultural studies approach to the family, his work can serve as a strong grounding upon which later historians can build.
  Wombat | Apr 9, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0674961889, Paperback)

When Dan Quayle chastised the sitcom Murphy Brown for flouting traditional family values by having its lead give birth out of wedlock, he had a point: television had moved beyond the Nelsons to the new world of the Simpsons. That shift, along with other harbingers of social change, allowed both Democrats and Republicans to deploy apocalyptic visions of family decline and social disorder. (A factoid: premarital pregnancy rates have never fallen below 10 percent throughout our history.) In this lively reading of American social history, Gillis shows us that the good old days were never really all that good and that while family values are not in danger, it won't keep many of us from yearning for a fabulous golden age when kids minded their elders and all was right with the world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:36 -0400)

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Myth, ritual, and the quest for family values

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