The Birth of Pleasure: A New Map of Love

Overview

Carol Gilligan, whose classic In a Different Voice revolutionized the study of human psychology, now offers a brilliant, provocative book about love. Why is love so often associated with tragedy, she asks. Why are our experiences of pleasure so often shadowed by loss? And can we change these patterns?

Gilligan observes children at play and adult couples in therapy and discovers that the roots of a more hopeful view of love are all around us. She finds evidence in new ...

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Overview

Carol Gilligan, whose classic In a Different Voice revolutionized the study of human psychology, now offers a brilliant, provocative book about love. Why is love so often associated with tragedy, she asks. Why are our experiences of pleasure so often shadowed by loss? And can we change these patterns?

Gilligan observes children at play and adult couples in therapy and discovers that the roots of a more hopeful view of love are all around us. She finds evidence in new psychological research and traces a path leading from the myth of Psyche and Cupid through Shakespeare’s plays and Freud’s case histories, to Anne Frank’s diaries and contemporary novels. Groundbreaking and immensely readable, The Birth of Pleasure has powerful implications for the way we live and love.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Carol Gilligan loves myths but wonders why in our intimate relationships, we keep reliving only their tragic stories of loss and betrayal. The psychologist and author of In a Different Voice proposes that we search for texts of resistance and renewal, myths that will lead us to a path beyond tragedy, into pleasure.
From the Publisher
“Compelling . . . a thrilling new paradigm.” –The Times Literary Supplement

“Here is human connection thoughtfully considered by one of our finest psychological and social observers. This book tells of the ways we seek companionship and love, the ways we affirm others, thereby finding ourselves, our hopes and aspirations.” --Robert Coles

“Gilligan has woven a tapestry of memories, myths and reflections that spirals like a shell and is structured like a dream but at its heart vanishes into the mystery of love . . . no small accomplishment.” --Elle

“[Gilligan] writes lyrically as she weaves myth and literature, interview and memoir.” --The Boston Phoenix

“An elegant and powerful narrative that runs through mythology, memoir and literature.” Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe

“Why has the love story in Western culture long assumed that pleasure leads to death, that love leads to loss? Carol Gilligan, in this brilliantly written book, explores the history of these associations, then traces the roots of an alternate narrative and draws a map to send us on our way. This is a wonderful book!” —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“An original and elegant inquiry, a fine weave of vivid case studies of ‘couples in crisis’ and brilliant literary analysis.” —Booklist

“Here is human connection thoughtfully considered by one of our finest psychological and social observers. This book tells of the ways we seek companionship and love, the ways we affirm others, thereby finding ourselves, our hopes and aspirations.” —Robert Coles

“It does no less than reconfigure what it might mean to love and be loved, a revolutionary act in itself.” —Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues

“An intellectual tour de force . . . . a provocative liberal education between covers.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Carol Gilligan suggests that the acknowledgment of pleasure is a part of our authenticity and essential to truth telling. How refreshing to imagine that authenticity and honesty are as much about feeling good as the opposite.” —Anna Deavere Smith

“[Gilligan’s] mastery of literary sources and her intelligent but nonacademic writing make this an enjoyable, challenging work.” —Publishers Weekly

The Birth of Pleasure is reminiscent of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents—but with one striking difference. Where Freud sees tragedy as inescapable (symbolized for him by the Oedipus myth), Gilligan sees a history of psychologically driven resistance, as manifested in the myth of Psyche and Cupid.” —Psychotherapy Networker

“A revolutionary book that will transform our beliefs about love, pleasure, human possibility, and ourselves. Carol Gilligan is a thinker and prophet of luminous grace, courage, and compassion.” —Catharine Stimpson, University Professor and Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Science, New York University

Library Journal
Called psychology yet drawing on literature from Greek mythology to Shakespeare to Toni Morrison, this book by gender scholar Gilligan considers the path of loveDand pleasureDthrough time. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Why do humans experience so much pain before finding pleasure in love? Gilligan, who revolutionized gender studies with her examination of girls' moral development (In a Different Voice, 1982), offers some tentative answers. She opens with a quotation, "The power of love upsets the order of things," and throughout the text considers that disturbing power. There are two roads, one leading to life, the other to death, Moses said after descending from Mt. Sinai; by urging followers to choose life, he said in effect: Choose love. But, Gilligan (Humanities/NYU) wonders, what is the best route to find love? The allusion to Moses is just one of hundreds of allusions, as Gilligan seeks a part of the answer in stories. Adam and Eve at odds with God; Cupid, wounded with his own arrow for love of Psyche; teenager Anne Frank writing in her diary while hiding from the Nazis; the doomed love of Almasy and Katharine in The English Patient-these are among the stories from which Gilligan derives or tests her concepts. In the contemporary world, she tries to understand the life-to-life, generation-to-generation shift from pain to pleasure by entering classrooms to explore the minds of students. In further search of enlightenment, she joins an experienced couples therapist as he meets with his clients, relating their suffering and successes while protecting their privacy with made-up names. Each page here contains rewards, but the text does not hang together well as a cohesive narrative. Gilligan jumps around in time for no obvious reason. She introduces characters real and fictional, drops them for many pages, then picks up their stories again, forcing readers to flip back to the previous reference. Thoughit's an intellectual tour de force, it's organizationally challenged. Despite structural flaws, a provocative liberal education between covers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679759430
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/12/2003
  • Series: Vintage Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 259
  • Sales rank: 945,975
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.01 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Gilligan is a psychologist and writer who lives in New York City and in the Berkshires. Her ground-breaking book, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory’ and Women’s Development, has been translated into eighteen languages. With her students, she co-authored and co-edited four books on women’s psychology and girls’ development: Meeting at the Crossroads, Between Voice and Silence, Making Connections, and Women, Girls, and Psychotherapy: Reframing Resistance. At Harvard, where she was the first Graham Professor of Gender Studies, her award-winning research led to the founding of the university’s Center on Gender and Education. She is now University Professor at New York University.
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Read an Excerpt

I

A Radical Geography of Love

Let it be Like wild flowers, Suddenly, an imperative of the field...

--YEHUDA AMICHAI

For years, without knowing why, I have been drawn to maps of the desert, drawn by descriptions of the winds and the wadi--dry watercourses that suddenly fill with rain. I began following an ancient story about love told in North Africa in the second century, written in the coastal city of Carthage, carried into Europe as the winds carry the desert sand, falling like rain into a tradition whose origins lie in the birth of tragedy, coursing through the centuries like an underground stream. Set in the landscape of tragedy, the story leads to the birth of pleasure.

Psyche is the youngest and most beautiful of three daughters, the magical position in the folktale tradition, the young woman slated to marry the prince. She was so beautiful that everyone honored her and called her the new Venus, as if the goddess of love had returned to earth, now a young woman again. This fantasy of replacement, one woman seen as the replica of another, leads to envy among women and also to isolation. Venus, replaced, becomes old Venus. And Psyche, although worshiped by all, is loved by no one, because nobody sees her. Her beauty has become a blind, dazzling others who admire her as the ideal woman, an object of beauty, the goddess of love herself. Psyche is lonely, depressed, and confused by the fact that while everyone idolizes her, no one will marry her--nobody knows who she is. She hates in herself that beauty in which the world finds such pleasure.

Her father the king, distressed by his daughter's unhappiness and suspecting a god's intervention in her failure to marry, goes to consult the oracle of Apollo--a woman who speaks for the male god. She tells him that his daughter is destined for a funereal marriage to a wild and cruel and snaky monster. He is to take her to a lofty mountain crag and leave her to her fate.

Psyche's parents--active father, silent mother--are bereft by the news of their daughter's sad fate. With heavy hearts, they prepare to take her to the high hill. But Psyche, hearing them weep, tells them they are grieving at the wrong time: "When countries and people were giving me divine honours, when with a single voice they were all calling me a new Venus, that is when you should have grieved, that is when you should have wept, that is when you should have mourned me as if I were already dead." They had taken her honor as cause for celebration without seeing that, for Psyche, being renamed New Venus signified her erasure. That was her funeral, she says, showing the obduracy of adolescents but also revealing that like the Fool in the Renaissance play, she is the truth-teller in this story about love. Buoyed by the truth and clear in her determination that she would rather die than continue to live her death-in-life existence as New Venus, she leads the procession to the mountain with a firm step. "Take me," she says, "and put me on the cliff appointed by the oracle. I hasten to enter into this happy marriage. I hasten to see this high-born husband of mine." Yet, left alone on the high ledge, Psyche waits in terror for the serpent monster.

Meanwhile, Venus, shocked to discover that there is--that there could be--a new Venus, sends for her son, Cupid, the god of love, and kissing him long and intensely with parted lips, beseeches him in the name of the maternal bond to punish that "defiant beauty." He is to make Psyche fall in love with the most wretched of men. But when Cupid alights on the high mountain ledge and sees the beautiful young woman who looks like his mother, he falls in love with her.

The love story begins with the wind. Summoned by Cupid, it brings the sensations of love, the feeling of being lifted and carried, taking Psyche from the ledge of terror and bringing her into the pleasures of her own body. There came, the sensual story goes, a softly blowing zephyr, which lifted her garments up, causing them to billow. And with its tranquil breath it carried her, little by little, down the slopes of the high cliff and into a valley deep below, where she lay on a bed of moist and fragrant flowers. In the andante of this sensuous awakening, told as a story of nature ("Come slowly, Eden," Emily Dickinson will write), Psyche sleeps and then wakes feeling calm. She finds herself now in a grove of tall trees, next to a glistening stream. In the middle of the grove, she sees a magnificent palace, which she enters, and there her unknown husband visits her at night. And so, the sexual story continues, "that which was at first a novelty did by continual custom bring her great pleasure, and the sound of a mysterious voice gave comfort to her loneliness." But this is a love conducted in darkness and sealed by silence. Hidden from Venus, an illicit love.

Cupid tells Psyche that she must promise not to try to see him or speak about their love. If she breaks her promise, he will leave her. But while Psyche cannot see her lover, he is nonetheless sensible both to her hands and to her ears. She knows him through touch and by the sound of his voice, yet she cannot see or say what she knows.

Maybe love is like rain, sometimes gentle, sometimes torrential, flooding, eroding, quiet, steady, filling the earth, collecting in hidden springs. When it rains, when we love, life grows. So that to say, as Moses coming down from Sinai said, that there are two roads, one leading to life and one to death and therefore choose life, is to say, in effect, choose love. But what is the way?

I read the myth of Psyche and Cupid at a time when relationships between men and women were changing. The waves of liberation that swept through American society in the second half of the twentieth century set in motion a process of transformation, freeing love from many constraints. The civil rights movement galvanized a moral consensus against prejudice and domination, and in a historic convergence, it was followed by both the antiwar movement and the women's movement. A conversation about freedom was joined by questions about long-standing ideals of manhood and womanhood. For a man to be a man, did he have to be a soldier? For a woman to be a woman, did she have to sacrifice herself for others? Was this the meaning of becoming someone's wife or mother? Soldiers and mothers were the sacrificial couple, honored and idealized by statues in the park and paintings in the museum. The gay/lesbian liberation movement drew people's attention to men's love for men and women's for women, and also to men's love for women who were not the objects of their sexual desire and women's love for men who were not their economic protectors. In the 1990s, for the first time since suffrage, women's votes elected the president. The tension between democracy and patriarchy was out in the open.

Democracy rests on an ideal of equality in which everyone has a voice. Patriarchy, although frequently misinterpreted to mean the oppression of women by men, literally means a hierarchy--a rule of priests--in which the priest, the hieros, is a father. It describes an order of living that elevates fathers, separating fathers from sons (the men from the boys) and men from women, and placing both children and women under a father's authority. With the renaissance of women's voices in the late twentieth century, with sons questioning the authority of fathers, especially with respect to war, with the revolution in technology reducing the need for a priesthood by providing direct access to knowledge, the foundations of patriarchy were eroding.

I was searching at the time for what seemed a washed-out road connecting women's psychology with that of girls. It was a path that novelists had followed but psychologists for the most part had ignored (girls having been consistently left out of research on adolescence). Picking up the voice of pleasure in girls at the edge of adolescence, I came to the places where this voice drops off and a tragic story takes over. The tragic story where love leads to loss and pleasure is associated with death was repeated over and over again in operas, folk songs, the blues, and novels. We were in love with a tragic story of love. It was "our story."

If we have a map showing where pleasure is buried and where the seeds of tragedy are planted, then an order of living that over the millennia has seemed natural or inevitable becomes instead a road we have taken, and we can explore alternative routes. Piecing together an ancient love story with the findings of contemporary research, I found myself led into the heart of a mystery--why do we keep repeating tragic love stories?--and then to a new mapping of love. This book is a record of that journey.

I picked up the ancient road-map of love, seeing in the myth of Psyche and Cupid a map of resistance that converged with the findings of my research. The myth was written or recorded by Apuleius, a Roman born in North Africa at a time when the hegemony of male gods was becoming unsettled--a time in this respect very much like our own. Like America in the late twentieth century, North Africa in the second century was a place where cultures were mixing and women's voices were finding new resonance. Apuleius, educated in Carthage and Athens, worked as a lawyer in Rome before returning to Carthage where he married an older woman who was steeped in the traditions of women's culture. The story of Psyche and Cupid appears at the center of his novel, Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass. It is presented as "an old wife's tale."

The word "metamorphosis" means changing the shape or overcoming the form. Apuleius' novel follows the adventures of Lucius, a man whose curiosity leads him to be turned into a donkey. He is the supreme or golden ass. In this form, he travels through a familiar landscape of millers and priests, highways and robbers, taverns and wenches, until with the intervention of Isis and the coming of spring, he regains his human shape by eating roses. For a time he devotes himself to the worship of Isis before returning to his old life as a new man.

Midway through this journey, the story of Psyche and Cupid bubbles up, seemingly from nowhere like an ancient spring. It too is a story of transformation, overcoming the traditional form of love between a man and a woman. Its central place in the novel suggests that only when Lucius has assimilated this change in the love story can he regain his male human body without assuming the old forms of manhood. The revolutionary insight in this comic novel lies in this realization: a change in the love story is a psychic key to a cultural and historic transformation.

While Apuleius' novel ends with an ode to Isis, suggesting a change in shape from patriarchy to matriarchy (a change that retains the hierarchical form), the love story of Psyche and Cupid ends with a more radical suggestion: as the relationship between Psyche and Cupid is made "no longer uneven" and a democratic marriage replaces the patriarchal form, so the birth of a daughter named Pleasure carries the intimation of a new story. The tale of Psyche and Cupid traveled from North Africa into the heart of Europe at the time of the Renaissance, becoming an inspiration to poets and painters and a prime source for Shakespeare, shaping his writing about love and the voices of the women characters in the comedies, tragedies, and romance plays just as Holinshed's Chronicles shaped the writing of the history plays. J. J. M. Tobin, a classics scholar who has documented how extensively Shakespeare borrowed from Apuleius, especially from the story of Psyche and Cupid, has called The Golden Ass "Shakespeare's favorite novel." Thus a radical map of love, a story told by an old wife to a young woman, came into the center of high Western culture. Carried along on the cultural mainstream, the story itself undergoes transformation. We hear it repeated, over and over again, in a variety of forms. Lucius, the golden ass, and Charity, the young woman to whom the story is told, become the lovers in Edith Wharton's novel Summer. The old woman who tells the story becomes the street woman in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, the story itself--barely comprehensible--interrupting the stream of people's consciousness as they cross a busy street in London. And Psyche's voice becomes Katharine's voice in Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient, when she says to Almasy, "If you make love to me I won't lie about it. If I make love to you I won't lie about it."

In the mid-1980s, I embarked on a study with men and women whose intimate relationships with one another had reached a point of crisis. People were asking new questions about love--finding their way alone and together across a shifting societal and psychic terrain. More women were speaking openly about their experiences of love, saying what they knew about pleasure. The double standard, or what Freud had called "a double morality" had led, he observed, to a "concealment of the truth, false optimism, self-deception and deception of others" on the part of both men and women. The poet Jorie Graham's questions became everyone's questions:

How far is true enough? How far into the earth can vision go and still be love?

A search for truth was uncovering a buried history, revealing the extent to which neither men nor women felt authentic. How had this happened? Where had they split with their souls, their desires, their connection to themselves and each other?

Led by an awareness of disconnection, I began to explore the roots of what seemed a pervasive trauma. Trauma is the shock to the psyche that leads to dissociation: our ability to separate ourselves from parts of ourselves, to create a split within ourselves so that we can know and also not know what we know, feel and yet not feel our feelings. It is our ability, as Freud put it in Studies on Hysteria, to hold parts of our experience not as a secret from others but as a "foreign body" within ourselves.

The foundational stories we tell about Western civilization are stories of trauma. Oedipus is wounded and abandoned by his parents, who drive a stake through his feet (hence the name Oedipus, which means "swollen foot") and give him to a herdsman with instructions to leave the baby on a hillside to die. Saved by the herdsman, Oedipus is fated to kill his father, Laius, and to marry his mother, Jocasta--a fate decreed by Apollo as retribution for Laius having sexually violated a young boy.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
I A Radical Geography of Love 13
II Regions of Light 65
III The Birth of Pleasure 159
Psyche and Cupid: A Summary of the Myth 233
Acknowledgments 236
A Note on Sources 240
Bibliography 242
Index 253
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Carol Gilligan, author of The Birth of Pleasure
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: Writing this book was a personal journey for me. After I wrote In a Different Voice, I remember thinking that there was a conversation under the conversation, and it had to do with love. All those concepts—self, morality, development—they were standing in a field, and the ground they were standing on was love. I wanted to write about love.  I began to collect things—the myth of Psyche and Cupid, couples in crisis, girls, novels—and move them around. A friend who is a sculptor composes some of her work with pieces you can move around, and as I assembled the pieces of this book, experimenting with different angles of composition, I felt I was coming to see into love. As I listened to people's stories about love and heard certain themes over and over again, I realized that if I could capture what I was hearing, there was a story to tell that would make sense of experiences that seemed baffling or mysterious.
Q: In a Different Voice, published in 1982, proved to be a bestseller and a major influence. How has your life and work changed since the publication of that book? Did the reaction to the book surprise you?

A: At the time I wrote the book, we had moved to a new house and with my children, I planted a large organic garden. I remember finishing the book and wanting to plant it in my garden, to shelter it from the world. I never imagined the response. I thought most people would not want to hear what I was saying, and I saw how easily it could be misconstrued. I did notanticipate being joined in the way I have been by so many people, including people whose lives, at least on the surface, seem so different from mine. In a Different Voice shows how including women's voices changes the human conversation, makes it more expansive, more real in certain ways, and that's not only for women; enlarging the conversation and changing the resonance can also encourage men to say things that they know but may have felt they couldn't speak about.
Did it change my life? Sure. It gave me a network of friends all over the world; I felt my perceptions were understood. It encouraged me to go further and to continue taking risks in my work.
Q: How do you see your work within the trajectory of feminist thought? What have been the key developments for women between In a Different Voice and The Birth of Pleasure?

A: There are two main trajectories of feminism—equality feminism and difference feminism, although actually when you think about it they are more like two steps in a dance. Equality feminism is pretty much summed up by the statement "Women's Rights are Human Rights." Seems self-evident to me. Once you agree that women are human, you get into the questions of difference feminism which are at the center of my work. What difference does it make when women enter arenas of the human world from which they were previously excluded? What do women add, what new perceptions, experiences, insights and knowledge do they bring? It's one thing to say to women, you can come into my house, you can come into every room of my house, but it's still my house. It's another to say, let's redesign the house.

I think the key development for women over the past twenty years has been that more and more women have become aware of the need to redesign the house. Certainly more women have entered men's houses, and then discovered that the structure requires them to do what men traditionally have done. One could say that women in this sense have become obsolete, like dinosaurs, since women or at least some women can be like men, but this only points to another key development during this time which has been that the old images and meanings of manhood and womanhood are themselves becoming obsolete. This is very hopeful because it means that the structures that have accommodated and promulgated patriarchy are changing.
Q: How has your research shaped this book? What about your students? Have they played a part in the development of your studies?

A: This book is personal research; it's a record of a personal journey of coming to know. While I draw on my past academic research, this is in no way a research monograph. When I draw examples from my research with girls or boys or my work with couples, my intention is to show something I came to see which shifted my thinking.

All of my academic research has been collaborative, and students have been outstanding collaborators, bringing fresh perceptions, new questions, and taking me into worlds I otherwise might not have seen. In laying out the frame for The Birth of Pleasure, an essential piece was the work with young boys that I did with Judy Chu, a graduate student. It was Chu's relationships with the boys, her insights, and the evidence of her research that made the analogy with the adolescent girls persuasive to me. Also, the "I poems" in the book which serve as sonograms of the psyche are part of a research method that my graduate students and I developed over many years, and specifically, the discovery that the first-person voice when followed through a passage often falls into a poetic cadence was the contribution of Elizabeth Debold, one of the key members of the Harvard Project. The five books reporting the research of the Harvard Project on Women's Psychology and Girls' Development were co-authored or co-edited with my students, and each collaborator now heads her own research team.
Q: What is the link between love and patriarchy as it plays out in The Birth of Pleasure?

A: There is a line at the end of Saki's "The Storyteller," where a man who has been telling a story to two unruly children on a train sums up the moral of his tale by saying, "You can't have pigs and flowers." It's a bit of a stretch and not to be taken literally, but this pretty much sums up the relationship between love and patriarchy. You can't have love and patriarchy. Love means opening yourself to another and taking the other into yourself; it means being vulnerable to other people's wants and needs; it means delighting in another person, tasting the joy of being together, weathering, exploring, embracing the difficult times; and perhaps most of all, it means being willing to change.  You'd have to be crazy in a hierarchy to leave yourself open in this way, whether you're the bottom or the top, which is why in so many relationships where people are struggling to open themselves to one another or to be vulnerable to one another, invariably they can't, and that's why these relationships are in trouble.
Q: How does the myth of Psyche and Cupid relate to the tensions and difficulties of relationships between men and women in our society?

A: The myth of Psyche and Cupid comes from Apuleius' novel, Metamorphoses, where it is presented as "an old wife's tale," told to a young woman who has been kidnapped and taken into the forest on the eve of her seemingly-perfect marriage. It's a cautionary tale about love, and I read it as a map of resistance, showing how to get out of a tragic story, like the Oedipus story, or all those stories in operas and country westerns and plays and novels where love leads to loss and pleasure to death.
It's a strikingly contemporary tale in the sense of speaking so directly to tensions and difficulties which continue to beset men and women, such as the dangers of becoming an object, the need for women to say what they know about love—to break taboos on seeing and speaking about what they know, what happens when a man can't show his love, the need for equality in love relationships, and perhaps most radically, if a woman finds herself forced to choose between staying with her husband and risking her child and herself or, to quote Hamlet, taking arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them, the better choice is to take arms and a lamp to look at the situation. What Psyche discovers in looking at her lover under the light is that the stories she was told about love and marriage are not true. The old wife's tale counters air-brushed images of love and marriage by making it clear that the labor of love which leads to the birth of pleasure is a long and difficult labor.
Q: Your work counseling couples. What do you hope to achieve through this project? What did you learn from the couples that you worked with?

A: I began my work with couples by interviewing men and women whose intimate relationships with one another had reached a point of crisis. I continued this work with Terrence Real, a couples therapist, and we saw couples together, offering counseling in exchange for their participation in our project. What I learned from the couples was that even in the midst of crisis, you can pick up the voice of pleasure, and if you follow this voice, it will lead back to a time before loss or trauma made it seem too risky or dangerous to love. By listening for the voice of pleasure as well as the signs of loss and trauma, we found ways of moving in the face of what otherwise often seemed a hopeless impasse.
I also discovered that my work with adolescent girls and young boys was an invaluable guide in the couples work, because it tuned my ear to an emotional openness in men that was quickly covered and to an honest voice in women that seemed too dangerous to express. Terry Real's ability to speak with men lovingly and truthfully opened the couples work to a kind of candor that made it possible to work very quickly because it broke the collusion that occurs in couples therapy when a therapist and a woman tacitly align to protect the vulnerability of a man. When this happens, a series of issues manifest in the couple but rooted in patriarchy never get addressed.
Q: In The Birth of Pleasure you write, "The resistance story is a psychological story set in a historical and political landscape, and both love and the soul need to be placed in a cultural framework. Then we can see why we have loved tragic stories of love…" Why, do you think love relationships in our society are so often haunted by loss and pain? Is there a way to get around this trauma within the confines of a patriarchal society?

A: One of the questions that led me to write this book is why is it so hard to resist a tragic love story, or to put it differently, why are we so drawn to tragic stories of love, where pleasure is Act I in a play that ends badly? I found myself asking what is so dangerous about pleasure and what stake do we have in the tragic ending? These questions took me into a history of loss and separation that I saw playing itself out among the young boys and the adolescent girls in my studies. They would come to a place where loss seemed inescapable, where it seemed impossible for them to stay open and present in their relationships. I observed boys around the ages of four and five beginning to cover their emotions and girls at adolescence beginning not to say what they were really thinking and feeling. I have always been grateful to the woman in one of my early studies who asked me: "Do you want to know what I think, or do you want to know what I really think?"
If the only way we can maintain relationships is by not showing what we are feeling or not saying what we are really thinking, then we end up giving up relationships for the sake of having relationships. The absurdity of this, when you think about it, is countered by the fact that we often accept it as inevitable. And I think this is one reason why many people are unhappy in love, because what is said to be love often feels like constraint.
Love relationships in our society are shadowed by the legacy of a loss that has its roots in childhood. Because this loss is often experienced as a loss of voice and connected with a feeling of being unable to speak or to say what is happening, it bears the hallmarks of trauma. One way to get around this trauma within the confines of a patriarchal society is to break this silence. The fact that more women and men are now speaking openly about what is happening or has happened in their intimate relationships is one clear sign that we are moving out of patriarchy.
Q: You explain, "To hear tragic love as a story immediately suggests the existence of other stories and also the possibility of new stories." What is this new possibility? What comes next in relationships between men and women?

A: I think we are currently witnessing the endgame of patriarchy, which makes this a very volatile time and also one that calls for creativity. I remember looking at a front-page photograph of the millennial celebration at the United Nations; the heads of most countries were there and with the exception of two or three women, they were all older men. It was a very vivid reminder that we are still living in patriarchy, but there are also many signs of change. In the U.S., for example, most families no longer fit the model of the nuclear family; love relationships are taking a variety of forms. The workplace also is changing; corporations and organizations experimenting with non-hierarchical forms of leadership and management are discovering that these changes can heighten productivity. We know now that girls' education and women's literacy are among the best predictors of economic growth in developing countries as well as of population control. And while it is true that a disproportionate number of women are living in poverty and we continue to tolerate high levels of violence among men, it is also true that many constraints on relationships between men and women are being lifted as more women gain economic independence and more men realize the costs of adhering to traditional norms of masculinity.
What comes next for relationships between men and women? If we don't turn back from the changes initiated by the liberation movements of the mid-twentieth century, what comes next is the birth of pleasure. This is where the future lies. But it is important to say that by pleasure I don't mean titillation or hedonism as it's commonly understood; I mean our capacity for delight, for joy.  Once feminism is understood not as a battle between the sexes but a move to free both women and men from constraints that have limited their capacity to love and live fully, it becomes clear that feminism is one of the great liberation movements in human history.
Q: You use many sources—from Freud, Michael Ondaatje, and Toni Morrison to dialogues of couples in crisis to ancient myths. How did you select these examples and was it difficult to bring them all together to tell one coherent story?

A: I cast a wide net, drawing in Anne Frank and Proust, Shakespeare and popular songs, Emily Dickinson and Arundhati Roy because I felt it was important to draw evidence from the stories of our culture. We are living the struggle between love and patriarchy in the novels we read and the dreams we dream as well as in our daily lives. I wanted to include writers living in different times and places, and I was particularly drawn to post-colonial writers who are chronicling the move out of colonization. Knowing what you know is a central theme in my book, and I chose to tell an ancient love story along with a range of contemporary love stories as a way of showing how widespread this knowing of love is and also for how long it has been in our midst.
In drawing from my research, I highlight moments that led me to new insights in an effort to make it clear how I came to see what I saw and also to give readers a chance to see for themselves. Where I include my own dreams and memories, it is because they served for me as a kind of epiphany—sudden moments of illumination that occurred in the course of this journey.
The challenge I faced in writing the book led me to create a form that could hold the sensations of love and pleasure and the associative nature of psychological discovery while also making clear the logic or connections that bring the various parts together to form a coherent whole. I often thought of orchestration where a composer uses different instruments to carry the parts of a piece and then explores and develops their relation to one another through counterpoint and harmony. I found it an exciting and difficult challenge, and the journey of writing this book became one of personal transformation, leading me away from the conventions of academic writing and into something that felt much freer and also more embracing of the story I set out to tell.
Q: Jane Fonda has recently given Harvard University the funds to launch the Harvard Center on Gender and Education in your honor. What sorts of plans are in the works for this center, and will you be involved in its development?

A: I admire Jane Fonda for her willingness to put herself on the line and devote her resources to what she believes in. Her generous gift will change the landscape of Harvard, and the plans for the new center are very exciting. The map of development I lay out in this book provides the inspiration for the Center. The initial project, led by Dr. Janie Ward, is an alliance with educators in elementary schools and high schools with the goal of addressing risks to children's resiliency that are associated with gender.
The Center will be international in scope, and as part of its mandate, the Graduate School of Education will collaborate with at least two other divisions of Harvard in undertaking joint research and scholarly projects. Jane Fonda's gift makes it possible to build on the gifts of four other women whose vision led to the creation of Harvard's first chair in Gender Studies. The program their generosity initiated will now grow considerably as a result of this new funding, bringing scholars from all over the world and supporting the work of research fellows and graduate students.
Personally, it is a great honor and deeply gratifying to me, in that work I started with my students at Harvard will continue and become a permanent part of the university's research and teaching mission. I have a great investment in the flourishing of this center. Jane knew of my plan to move to New York to become University Professor at NYU, and we agreed that my continuing involvement with the Center will take the form of serving as chair of the advisory committee.
From the Hardcover edition.
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