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Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhoodby Gary Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
Stone Age man invented it, the Sumerians exalted it, the Christians banned it, and Freud got it wrong. Over the last century, castration has meant loss of manhood. But at earlier points in Western history, Gary Taylor argues, it was a mark of power and divinity.
Castration is a lively and detailed history of the meaning, function, and act of castration from its place in the early Church — where Augustine and the Fathers laid the basic philosophic concepts of sexuality and chastity — to its secular reinvention in the Renaissance as a spiritualized form of masculinity and its twentieth-century position at the core of psychoanalytic theory.
With wit and insight, Taylor shows that castration is not now, nor has it always been, about loss. In the medieval tale of Abelard and Heloise a violent castration makes Abelard a better theologian. In the year two thousand a sterile but otherwise functioning man is a boon to the woman who desires sex without the burdens of pregnancy.
Clever, offbeat, and learned, Castration turns an unusual and discomforting topic into a thoroughly enjoyable narrative of man's obsessive relationship to his penis, his sexuality, and his manhood.
"Taylor has written a thoroughly engaging and witty account of the history and misconceptions of castration, an act which, strictly speaking, concerns the removal of the testicles for punitive, political, spiritual, medical, or cultural reasons. Relying on religious sources as old as Origen of Alexandria, Taylor also slogs through Freud's æuvre and literary texts such as Middleton's A Game of Chess to pinpoint the importance of this at once monstrous and privileged procedure. Freud's novel ideas of castration— which incongruously ignore the testicles altogether—are frequent targets of Taylor's erudition and humor. Despite some misinformation about the Catholic Church's position on birth control, and some annoyingly stylistic sidebars, Castration provides a useful, original, lively, and long overdue look at one mankind's most essential physical and cultural components." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Book News Annotation:
Though for the past century castration has signaled a loss of manhood, says Taylor (English and Renaissance studies, U. of Alabama), for most of western history it was a mark of power and divinity. He traces the meaning, function, and act from the words of Jesus in Matthew and early Christianity to its secular reinvention in the Renaissance and its 20th-century position at the core of psychoanalysis.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"Castration" is a lively history of the meaning, function, and act of castration from its place in the early church to its secular reinvention in the Renaissance as a spiritualized form of masculinity and its 20th century position at the core of psychoanalysis.
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