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Jealousy: A Forbidden Passion

ISBN: 978-1-5095-1185-3
200 pages
December 2017, Polity
Jealousy: A Forbidden Passion (1509511857) cover image


Amorous jealousy is not a monster, as Shakespeare's venomous Iago claims. It is neither prickly and bitter fancy nor a cruel and mean passion, nor yet a symptom of feeble self-esteem. All those who have experienced its wounds are well aware that it is not callous, nasty, delusional and ridiculous. It is just painful.

Yet for centuries moralists have poured scorn and contempt on a feeling that, in their view, we should fight in every possible way. It is allegedly a disease to be treated, a moral vice to be eradicated, an ugly, pre-modern, illiberal, proprietary emotion to be overcome. Above all, no one should ever admit to being jealous.

So should we silence this embarrassing sentiment? Or should we, like the heroines of Greek tragedy, see it as a fundamental human demand for reciprocity in love? By examining its cultural history from the ancient Greeks to La Rochefoucauld, Hobbes, Kant, Stendhal, Freud, Beauvoir, Sartre and Lacan, this book demonstrates how jealousy, far from being a 'green-eyed' fiend, reveals the intense and apprehensive nature of all erotic love, which is the desire to be desired.

We should never be ashamed to love.

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction. I am beside myself with anger É
  • Chapter 1. Being Medea
  • Chapter 2. A forbidden passion
  • Chapter 3. Sexual objects and open couples
  • Chapter 4. The despair of not being loved
  • Chapter 5. Art of love, art of jealousy
  • Conclusion. Confessing the unconfessable
  • Notes
  • Index
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Author Information

Giulia Sissa is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Classics at UCLA. Among her many books are The Greek Virginity, The Daily Life of the Greek Gods and Sex and Sensuality in the Ancient World.
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"Forget self-help books. Sissa rescues jealousy from the moralists, the philosophers, and an industry devoted to amplifying shame in the guise of therapy with her passionate and altogether compelling defense of erotic anger as the lifeblood of amorous relationships. Giving us much more than a history of jealousy, Sissa enlarges the lover’s discourse with her capacious intelligence."
Brooke Holmes, Princeton University
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