Twilight Zones: The Hidden Life of Cultural Images from Plato to O.J. / Edition 1

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Susan Bordo deciphers the hidden life of cultural images and the impact they have on our lives. She builds on the provocative themes introduced in her acclaimed work Unbearable Weight - which explores the social and political underpinnings of women's obsession with bodily image - to offer a singularly readable and perceptive interpretation of our image-saturated culture. As it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish between appearance and reality, Bordo argues, we need to rehabilitate the notion that not all versions of reality are equally trustworthy. Looking to the body and bodily practices as an arena in which cultural fantasies and anxieties are played out, Bordo examines the mystique and the reality of empowerment through cosmetic surgery. Her incisive analysis of sexual harassment in the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill controversy, as well as in films such as Disclosure, challenges media-driven caricatures of sexuality. Bordo also sharply diagnoses the continuing marginalization of feminist thought, in particular the failure to read feminist work as cultural criticism. In a final powerful collaborative essay entitled "Missing Kitchens," Bordo and her sisters Binnie Klein and Marilyn Silverman explore notions of bodies, place, and space through a moving recreation of the topographies of their childhood.
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Editorial Reviews

Indira Karamcheti
"...The increasing intrusion of commercial images into the intimate territories of the self is the province of only the first section of Bordo's book. As a whole, she organizes it into three separate but interrelted parts, each concentrating on an increasingly smaller, more personal arena. While the first section asks us to consider the public sphere, the second takes us into the professional realm of academia, the feminist valuing of theory, and the consequent devaluing of the experience of various women. In the last section, which is the most intensely focused on the personal, Bordo's two sisters join her in reflections about the home and family that have created them." -- The Women's Review of Books
Kirkus Reviews
An attentive critique of both mass-media and philosophical ideologies gets trapped somewhere between the personal and the theoretical.

Bordo intermittently lives up to her claim to limn a "hidden" life of images—as when she pursues the underlying meanings attached to slenderness in the recent wave of ultra-skinny models, or in her analyses of the representation of sexual harassment and of the continuing sub rosa ghettoization of feminism within "advanced" postmodern scholarship. Often, though, as when Bordo (Philosophy/Univ. of Kentucky; Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body, 1993) turns to cosmetic surgery or the O.J. Simpson case, she is content with more obvious interpretations, wordily entangled in a suffocating self-narration. The cultural landscape Bordo paints consists largely of the world of produced images in the background and her own reactions in the foreground, and although she pays lip service to the intervening complexity of actual lives and social forces, it has no substantial presence in the book. Thus, a ubiquitous advertising campaign like "Just Do It" can be simply read as an encompassing "ideology" embraced by contemporary society—exaggerating its real importance and thereby, perhaps, that of criticism like her own. It becomes positively depressing to realize that it's likely, judging by an excruciating essay on the role of theory in her work, that she is in fact among the academic cultural critics who are relatively dedicated to the connection of their work to the real world. A final chapter expanding on the personal references that inflect the whole book's tone, a collective memoir by Bordo and her sisters, is strangled at birth by the mandated topics of "bodies, place and space."

As ripe for scrutiny as the avalanche of images around us is, it seems that the prolific academic cultural-studies industry is capable of blowing up nearly as much snow as it clears away.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520211025
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 2/10/1999
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Bordo is Professor of Philosophy and Otis A. Singletary Chair of Humanities at the University of Kentucky. She is the author of Uncovering the Male Body (forthcoming, 1999), Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (California, 1993), and The Flight to Objectivity: Essays on Cartesiansim and Culture (1987), and is also the coeditor of Gender/Body/Knowledge: Feminist Reconstructions of Being and Knowing (1989).

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Braveheart, Babe, and the Contemporary Body 27
P.C., O.J., and Truth 66
Never Just Pictures 107
Can a Woman Harass a Man? 139
Bringing Body to Theory 173
The Feminist as Other 192
Missing Kitchens 214
Notes 243
Index 257
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