In her latest book, Leslie J. Harris, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, surveyed five types of 19th-century marriage controversy: domestic violence, divorce, polygamy, free love, and miscegenation. RD spoke with Harris about her project and what it reveals about our contemporary attempts to define, and redefine, marriage.
Your book is concerned with nineteenth century marriage controversies, so same-sex marriage is seldom mentioned. But it was on my mind the whole time I was reading. Did it inspire or influence your writing in any way?
Yes, the same-sex marriage controversy was an important factor in inspiring the book. I’ve been very interested in the issue for years, but I was particularly intrigued by the rash of state constitutional amendments in the early 2000s. I couldn’t help but wonder why marriage mattered so deeply to so many people. …