- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Through the centuries, the breast has been laden with hugely powerful and contradictory meanings. There is the "good breast" of reverence and life, the breast that nourishes infants and entire communities, as depicted in ancient ...
Through the centuries, the breast has been laden with hugely powerful and contradictory meanings. There is the "good breast" of reverence and life, the breast that nourishes infants and entire communities, as depicted in ancient idols, fifteenth-century Italian Madonnas, and representations of equality in the French Revolution. Then there is the "bad breast" of Ezekiel's wanton harlots, Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, and the torpedo-breasted dominatrix, symbolizing enticement and aggression. Yalom examines these contradictions--and illuminates the implications behind them.
A fascinating, astute, and richly allusive journey from Paleolithic goddesses to modern day feminists, A History of the Breast is full of insight and surprises. As Yalom says, "I intend to make you think about women's breasts as you never have before." In this, she succeeds brilliantly.
"I intend to make you think about women's breasts as you never have before." asserts Yalom, senior scholar at Stanford's Institute of Women and Gender ("Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women's Memory", 1993, etc.). The late Middle Ages glorified the nursing Madonna, one in a long line of deities symbolizing female nurturance; Renaissance art exalted the erotic breast, to preserve which the upper classes turned to wet nurses; Enlightenment France endorsed Rousseau's campaign to restore breast-feeding, and (apotheosizing what Yalom calls the "political breast"), represented the republic as a woman "opening her breasts to all her citizens." Credit for coming up with the paradigm that united the maternal and erotic breasts goes of course to Freud—target, for the usual feminist reasons, of Yalom's considerable vitriol (up to this point, her text is underinflected). Some passion surfaces again on the subject of pornography (for Yalom the linkage of violence with sex), which appears in a chapter on the commercial breast merging women as buyers (of corsetry throughout the ages) and sellers (Monroe to Madonna and beyond, in what seems like an obligatory litany). In context, perhaps the most original contribution concerns breast cancer, which Yalom sees as affirming women's ownership of what has been variously claimed by and for others: She surveys treatments of today and yesterday, and buoyantly makes room for "the medical breast" again in her upbeat celebration of "the liberated breast" (in politics, poetry, pictures). The conclusion echoes the opening: Attitudes toward breasts have changed variously and radically over time depending on who was observing what, where, and when.
Yalom trains her own lenses—telescopic, microscopic, or just idiosyncratic—on those variables, with uneven results. The bibliography, however, is a gem for any starting student.
|Introduction: Changing Meanings||3|
|1||The Sacred Breast: Goddesses, Priestesses, Biblical Women, Saints, and Madonnas||9|
|2||The Erotic Breast: "Orbs of Heavenly Frame"||49|
|3||The Domestic Breast: A Dutch Interlude||91|
|4||The Political Breast: Bosoms for the Nation||105|
|5||The Psychological Breast: Minding the Body||147|
|6||The Commercialized Breast: From Corsets to Cyber-Sex||159|
|7||The Medical Breast: Life-Giver and Life-Destroyer||205|
|8||The Liberated Breast: Politics, Poetry, and Pictures||241|
|9||The Breast in Crisis||275|
Posted September 5, 2009
Yalom's book constantly make you appreciate the here and now, as well as look forward to how much further we have to go as a society. While Yalom's "A History of the Wife" is still my favorite, I would never hesitate to recommend this book. This book is a drier read at times that Yalom's other works, however, it makes you question to much more. Who is really in control of the image of the breast? Men or Women? As always, the answer is not so simple as she describes here. Its mind boggling how much symbolism the female breast has had over thousands of years of human existence, how it has at times been weak, and other times strong. A truly wonderful book on a subject, that until now, was rarely talked about.
I would recommend this book for people interested in art history, advertising, history, women's studies, or human physiology.
Posted June 3, 2009
Again Yalom charts new territory in both historical and feminine studies. This book was absolutely fascinating. Her premises are always well thought, amazingly researched, and fantastically written in her execution. I cannot say enough about this author from whom Ive learned so much. Its not always an easy read, but its well worth it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 17, 2008
No text was provided for this review.