The Public Interest

Courtship today: the view from academia

Daniel Cere

Spring 2001

COURTSHIP charts pathways to marriage. Its customs and rituals help individuals negotiate the complex transition from sexual attraction, through love, to lasting marriage. It provides, for better or worse, the moral and emotional education for married life. And yet, courtship no longer occupies a vital place within contemporary American culture; the word itself now seems quaint and outdated.  Social historians such as Beth Bailey and Ellen Rothman have documented the decay of courtship traditions in twentieth-century America. Leon Kass has pointed out that the erosion of courtship, coupled with other worrisome trends in law, economics, and technology, has destabilized the institution of marriage3 Today, the road to marriage is devoid of clear markers and fraught with more accidents and wrong turns. 

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