|[a] Dumped RF|
Marine Biologist The Doorman Opposite George Newman's Mail The Bootleg Marriage
Just Dessert Sleep Desk Late Coffee High Stakes Motor Oil Downtown
Code Cracking Nonfat Yogurt Bad Boy It's Not You I Can't Be... Exploding Wallet
Elaine Flies Coach The Close Talker The Alliance Broccoli Coated Culture Dinner Party
Click here for the reference to the "Argonauts" title, below.
Argonauts of the Seinfeldian Specific
"But you're a cashier!" No matter, "so much fluff" just doesn't get the job done, and the relationship is over. We don't have to worry about Jerry, who will soon have other people to meet. I am more interested this week in "respecting what someone does." What exactly does that mean? Throughout world history, it has played a much more prominent role in partner choice than supposedly egalitarian Americans admit.
This week’s readings take the Seinfeld clip you just saw and overlay it with a number of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century images. We begin with Alexis de Tocqueville’s thoughts about the nature of the marriage contract in the fledgling United States, then proceed to Tocqueville’s home country for a skillful rendering of gendered marital frustration. We complete our circuit this week with Marcel Granet’s fanciful (but theoretically rich) account of marriage in ancient China. All of the references are snippets from larger narratives, of course, and it would not be Seinfeld Ethnography if I failed to remind readers that these passages every week are meant to be juxtaposed—even read “against the grain—of the Seinfeld clip. This should not be difficult in works ranging from a political-social treatise to an iconic novel and on to ancient Chinese history.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Democratic Marriage (1840)
This does not occur in the same way when equality of social conditions has swept away all the real or imagined barriers between men and women. No girl then feels that she cannot become the wife of the man who likes her best, which makes the disruption of moral behavior before marriage very uncommon. For, however believable a passion may be, in no way will a woman be persuaded that she is loved when her lover is perfectly free to marry her and does not do so. The same cause acts upon marriage in a more indirect manner. Nothing better serves to justify an illicit passion in the eyes of those experiencing it or of the watching crowd than forced marriages or ones embarked upon by chance.
Madame Bovary (1856)
“What a man! what a man,” she said in a low voice, biting her lips.
She was becoming more irritated with him. As he grew older his manner grew coarser; at dessert he cut the corks of the empty bottles; after eating he cleaned his teeth with his tongue; in eating his soup he made a gurgling noise with every spoonful; and, as he was getting fatter, the puffed-out cheeks seemed to push the yes, always small, up to the temples.
The marriage of a noble girl is a quasi-diplomatic affair. It serves to maintain an old alliance or to procure a new one, for, in the instability of the feudal world, it happens more and more frequently that families, rejecting “the old relationships” seek fortune (li) by attaching themselves to another system of alliances. To enter into commerce, one must have recourse to the good offices of a go-between. The go-between, who was formerly charged with the oversight of the pre-nuptial lustrations, becomes a sort of ambassador. This obliging intermediary will become in the end a veritable match-maker whose duty it is to provide the partners and assort the households. In feudal times, his intervention seems to have been necessary, because the old rule (which was still respected, in theory if not in fact) that a marriage is only fortunate between families traditionally united by the obligation of intermarriages, survived in another form, namely, the idea that marriage is not a free contract: a girl who is asked in marriage cannot be refused without her people exposing themselves to a vendetta. This misfortune must be avoided if the two families come to an agreement through the go-between, before the formal demand. The official rites do not come into play until the agreement is concluded. The go-between then resigns his place to a qualified ambassador whom the head of the family of the would-be bridegroom sends to the family of the girl. He proceeds with the rites of betrothal, at which neither the bridegroom nor his father may be present. At each of these rites he exchanges a certain number of sacramental formulas with the head of the girl’s family…
 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (New York: Penguin Classics, 2003), 690-691.
 Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary [Translated by Paul de Man] (New York: W.W. Norton
& Company, 1965), 44.
 Marcel Granet, Chinese Civilization [Translated by Kathleen Innes and Mabel Brailsford]
(New York: Meridian Books, 1958), 347.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary [Translated by Paul de Man]. New York: W.W.
Norton & Company, 1965.
Granet, Marcel. Chinese Civilization [Translated by Kathlen Innes and Mabel Brailsford].
New York: Meridian Books, 1958.
Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America [Translated by Gerald Bevan]. New York:
Penguin Classics, 2003.
Wednesday, September 7th
The Exploding Wallet
George's big wallet is central to his identity, or so he maintains. Next week we'll explore gender, money, storage, and contingency on Seinfeld Ethnography.