Friday August 11, 2017

The Marriage of True Minds, Part 1

Detail from "Venus and Adonis" by Peter Paul Rubens (c. mid-1630s).

Detail from "Venus and Adonis" by Peter Paul Rubens (c. mid-1630s). (The Metropolitan Museum of Art/CC)

Listen to Full Episode 54:00

More than thirty years ago, Paul Kennedy prepared a series that celebrated famous intellectual marriages. These relationships were consummated at various times, from the early Middle Ages to the late-twentieth century. We revisit that classic series from a more contemporary perspective, and wonder what might be learned, and what could be lost from looking for lessons from relationships in the past. **This episode originally aired February 14, 2017.

The first part of this two-hour reconsideration looks at three historical couples: Abelard and Heloise were the most famous lovers of 12th-century Paris, and although their marriage involved a painful crisis, it fostered two careers of intellectual and ecclesiastical importance. The relationship of Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley was brief and also tragic, although it resulted in similar creative productivity from both partners. Finally, George Sand and Frédéric Chopin were romantically involved for only a short period of time, with relatively little mutual influence or inspiration, but it would have been amazing to be a fly on the wall at a Sand/Chopin salon!

Varda Burstyn is a feminist activist and author, and a former IDEAS contributor. She has spent a great deal of time and energy, over the years, considering the nature of creative partnerships. 

Guests in this episode:

  • Dr. William Atwood, a New York City dermatologist, wrote three books about  Frédéric Chopin, including The Lioness and the Little One -- about the composer's brief liason with George Sand. When he died, in 2011, The New York Times called him "one of the world's leading authorities on Chopin."

  • Betty T. Bennett was working on her first academic appointment -- at The State University of New York, Stony Brook -- when she was interviewed for this programme. Her 2006 obituary, in The Guardian, called her "the doyenne of Mary Shelley scholars."

  • Anne Hutchinson was an instructor in the Department of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto.

  • Donald Riemann

  • Brian Stock was an historian at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto.

Listen to episodes in the original series broadcast in 1982: