Primitive Passions: Men, Women, and the Quest for Ecstasy

Primitive Passions: Men, Women, and the Quest for Ecstasy

by Marianna Torgovnick
     
 

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Beginning with early 20th-century figures--among them Carl Jung, Isak Dinesen, and Georgia O'Keeffe--who found in "the primitive" a medium for soul-searching and personal change, Torgovnivk probes how the return to the primitive has signaled a quest to transcend the limitations of the body in a variety of contemporary practices, from genital piercing to New Age rites…  See more details below

Overview

Beginning with early 20th-century figures--among them Carl Jung, Isak Dinesen, and Georgia O'Keeffe--who found in "the primitive" a medium for soul-searching and personal change, Torgovnivk probes how the return to the primitive has signaled a quest to transcend the limitations of the body in a variety of contemporary practices, from genital piercing to New Age rites to the mythopoetic men's movement. Illustrations. 272 pp. Author tour. 10,000 print.

Editorial Reviews

Walter Kendrick
Primitive Passions intends to provoke thought, not to tell you what you already know, and for that reason alone it's extraordinary. -- New Yorker
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Since the early 20th century, adventurous white European thinkers have pursued primitive places, cultures and states of mind, observes Torgovnick (Gone Primitive) in this lucid, freewheeling interdisciplinary study. Like many literary critics who've branched out into anthropology and cultural studies, Torgovnick, the chair of Duke University's English department, brings considerable critical skills to a wide range of cultural texts, tracing a fascination with the primitive from modernist literature to the New Age. The results are scattershot but always illuminating. In the writings of Carl Jung on North Africa, of D.H. Lawrence on New Mexico, Andre Gide on the Congo and ethnographer Bronislaw Malinowski on Melanesia, she highlights a desire for a kinship with nature, for a sense of the self as part of a larger, "oceanic" cosmos, for a fluid interaction with female energies. Aviator Beryl Markham and writer Isak Dinesen, both pioneers in Kenya, on the other hand, viewed Africa through an aestheticizing, aristocratic lens. Unlike male writers who sought to repress the appeal of the primitive, Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico and gorilla scientist Diane Fossey in Africa -- among the heroines of this study -- displayed a transgressive identification with animal life and the land. In the final section, Torgovnick turns to contemporary primitivism, deconstructing the "idealized, lyrical view" of Native American life presented in films such as Dances with Wolves; treating the craze for body piercing as taboo-violating and ritualistic; and casting a skeptical eye on New Age spirituality and the mythopoeic men's movement. What we seek in other cultures, she compellingly argues, we can, with some effort, find in Western traditions and practices.
Library Journal
Torgovnick (English, Duke Univ.) successfully elaborates upon her previous book, which dealt with the Western fascination with primitivism. In the first two sections of her new book, she contrasts Western male and female perceptions of the primitive by analyzing the lives and works of intellectuals and artists ranging from Andre Gide to Georgia O'Keeffe. In the third section, she examines the current Western attraction to primitivism apparent in the widespread admiration of Native American culture and traditions and in the attempts of the men's movement and New Agers to imitate what they perceive to be Native American customs or spirituality. Dividing her book this way effectively allows the reader to see a clear difference in how men and women see the primitive and to admit the possibility that the primitive is still valued in today's Western world. A worthy addition to academic anthropology collections that will also be appreciated both by scholars in literature and gender studies and informed lay readers. -- Ximena Chrisagis, Wright State Univ. Lib., Dayton, Ohio

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307826114
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/06/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
268
File size:
3 MB

What People are saying about this

Joyce Carol Oates
A powerfully argued, impassioned, and intelligent exploation of the 'primitive' in our culture and in culture and in ourselves. Like Torgovnick's previous work, it is certain to be much discussed and provocative.

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