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Natural History of Love

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Following the triumphant success of her book A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman has turned her formidable gifts to that greatest gift of all -- the elusive, eternal, and endlessly interesting matter of love. The result is pure Ackerman: a splendid, serious, scientific, poetic, playful, and lyrical 'tour d'horizon' of love's many forms and faces. Ackerman draws on a variety of sources, both classical and from her immediate experience. She gives a fresh new reading to Freud ('mapping the war zones of ...
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Overview

Following the triumphant success of her book A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman has turned her formidable gifts to that greatest gift of all -- the elusive, eternal, and endlessly interesting matter of love. The result is pure Ackerman: a splendid, serious, scientific, poetic, playful, and lyrical 'tour d'horizon' of love's many forms and faces. Ackerman draws on a variety of sources, both classical and from her immediate experience. She gives a fresh new reading to Freud ('mapping the war zones of the heart'), Stendhal (love as fantasy), and Proust ('the erotics of waiting'), and draws lessons from lovers across time.

Her attention then moves to the physical -- the chemistry, biology, and neurophysiology associated with love in the brain, mind, and body. She discusses the 'evolution of the face,' the cuddle, both as caress and as chemical, and the customs of marriage. There are astonishments everywhere. Her distinctive touch, aided by her personal adventures and explorations, enriches our understanding of women and horses, men and mermaids, sex and flying, and other equally enticing subjects.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In her long-anticipated companion volume to A Natural History of the Senses, Ackerman mines deep within the caves of human emotion for artifacts of 'the great intangible': love. Proceeding with the disdainful understanding that sociologists prefer to study negative behaviors and emotions, Ackerman sets out on her exploration by reviewing the lessons provided across time by such lovers as Antony and Cleopatra, Orpheus and Eurydice, Dido and Aeneas, Abelard and Eloise, and Romeo and Juliet. During this journey, she explores the neurophysiology of love and exposes the components of modern-day relationships, from the 'New Age Sensitive Guy'' to sexual chic. With dazzling poetic charm and insight, she uses history, literature, science, psychology, and personal experience as tools to illuminate the vigor and vehemence of the thrilling, devastating, and comforting phenomenon of love. -- David R. Johnson, Louisiana State University Library
Library Journal
In her long-anticipated companion volume to A Natural History of the Senses, Ackerman mines deep within the caves of human emotion for artifacts of 'the great intangible': love. Proceeding with the disdainful understanding that sociologists prefer to study negative behaviors and emotions, Ackerman sets out on her exploration by reviewing the lessons provided across time by such lovers as Antony and Cleopatra, Orpheus and Eurydice, Dido and Aeneas, Abelard and Eloise, and Romeo and Juliet. During this journey, she explores the neurophysiology of love and exposes the components of modern-day relationships, from the 'New Age Sensitive Guy'' to sexual chic. With dazzling poetic charm and insight, she uses history, literature, science, psychology, and personal experience as tools to illuminate the vigor and vehemence of the thrilling, devastating, and comforting phenomenon of love. -- David R. Johnson, Louisiana State University Library
-- Kate Kelly, Treadwell Lib., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
-- Kate Kelly, Treadwell Lib., Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
Donna Seaman
No one writes quite like Ackerman. She glides from the peaks of poetry to the secretive valleys of science to the plains of personal musings with ease, apparent pleasure, and a frankly feminine form of confidence. Her most acclaimed book is A Natural History of the Senses (1990); this book is a companion work of sorts and bound to create quite a splash. Here Ackerman marshals all her perceptive and synthetic abilities to consider love, the 'great intangible.' Ackerman begins her cultural, literary, and physiological investigation with fresh and intuitive interpretations of classic love stories such as Orpheus and Eurydice and Tristan and Iseult. Her loosely chronological format includes stops in Greece and Rome, an extended pondering of the tradition of chivalry and courtly love, and a selection of vivid profiles of such lovers and students of love as Don Juan, Ben Franklin, Stendhal, Proust, and Freud. Ackerman is especially intrigued by the connection between danger and desire that makes adultery so common, but she is also enraptured by the chemical reactions love precipitates, noting that love is a 'biological imperative.'

Turning from quantifiable sensations to the mysteries of eroticism, Ackerman contemplates hair, women and horses, men and cars, mermaids, sex and flying, and sexual chic. As erudite, sensual, sensitive, and brilliant as Ackerman is, she is also devilishly funny and quite mischievous. -- Booklist

Book World Washington Post
[An] audaciously brilliant romp through the world of romantic love. . .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780517170847
  • Publisher: Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/15/1996

Meet the Author

Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman
Diane Ackerman is the acclaimed author of A Natural History of the Senses, the bestselling The Zookeeper's Wife, Dawn Light, One Hundred Names for Love, and many other books. She lives in Ithaca, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Love's Vocabulary
A Long Desire: The History of Love
Egypt 3
History's Paramour, the Serpent Queen 3
Art in Ancient Egypt 7
The Hieroglyphic Love Poems 10
My Sister, My Bride 14
A Long Desire 16
Greece 17
The World of the Citizen King 17
The Woman's World 19
Men Loving Men 21
The Family 23
Orpheus and Eurydice 25
Rome 29
The Nightmare of Girls 29
Dido and Aeneas 32
The Family 35
Oh, Victoria! 38
Ovid and the Art of Love 39
Decorating Leisure Time 42
The Middle Ages 43
The Birth of Chivalry 43
Books of Love 47
Troubadours 49
The Heart's Rebellion 51
The Origins of Courtly Love 56
Abelard and Heloise 60
Modern Days 66
The Angel and the Witch 66
Romeo and Juliet 70
Bridled Hearts 75
A Waking Swoon 82
A Return to Courtly Love 85
Domestic Paradise 88
Modern Love 90
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: Ideas About Love
Plato: The Perfect Union 95
Stendhal Meets the Deep South 99
Denis de Rougemont: Love and Magic 105
Marcel Proust and the Erotics of Waiting 112
Freud: The Origins of Desire 123
Attachment Theory 131
All Fires the Fire: The Nature of Love
The Loving Impaired 139
Disabling Love 139
The Horror of the Ik 141
Brain-Stem Sonata: The Neurophysiology of Love 146
The Evolution of Love 150
The Plastic Brain 152
New-Age Sensitive Guys 154
Adultery 156
The Battle of the Sexes 157
The Chemistry of Love 159
Mother Love, Father Love 159
The Cuddle Chemical 162
The Infatuation Chemical 164
The Attachment Chemical 166
The Chemistry of Divorce 167
Aphrodisiacs 169
A Necessary Passion: The Erotics of Love
Fire from the Flesh: Why Sex Evolved 177
The Spice of Life 180
The Face 181
The Evolution of the Face 184
Survival of the Cutest 186
Facing Our Biases 188
The Hair 190
Women and Horses 196
Men and Cars 217
The Indy 500 218
The Lightest Longing: Sex and Flying 227
Wings over Africa 230
Men and Mermaids 236
Sexual Chic: Perversion as Fashion 241
Kissing 249
On the Sensuality of Looking 255
Passing Strange and Wonderful: Love's Customs
Patterns in Nature 259
The Courtship 261
Flesh of My Flesh: The Marriage 267
Of Cocks and Cunts 277
Love on the Edge: Adultery, Extravagant Gestures, and Crimes of Passion 279
Points for a Compass Rose: Varieties of Love
Altruism 289
For the Love of Children: Interplast 292
For the Love of Strangers: Life and Death in the South Seas 308
On Religious Love 314
On Transference Love 322
On the Love of Pets 326
Postscript: The Museum 332
Selected Bibliography 338
Index 345
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Customer Reviews

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