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Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (Oxford Paperbacks) Paperback – September 29, 1988
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"An excellent book for an undergraduate seminar--sparks lively interest and discussion."--Edward Dickinson, University of California, Berkeley
"Brilliant analysis, brilliant command of language."--Pauley M. Stein, California State University
"[An] excellent book!"--John Murray, New York Institute of Technology
"Dijkstra's straightforward discussion of misogyny in nineteenth-century art is long overdue. His thematic groupings of subject matter cut across lines of academic versus avant-garde, which is very instructive for students to see."--F. Connelly, University of Missouri
"A provocative and absorbing book."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"This pioneering, witty, devastating survey breaks new ground in tracing men's hatred toward women and how this fear and loathing has shaped our culture."--Publishers Weekly
"[Dijkstra is] more than equal to the task of analyzing the cultural war waged on women at the turn of the century....[Readers] will not be able to forget [his] message, so applicable to the end of our century--that ideological dualisms, whether about sex or race, are also deadly."--Alessandra Comini, The New York Times Book Review
"A stupendous work--deeply serious, wildly delightful, abounding in new learning and insights."--Rudolph Binion, Journal of Psychohistory
"A ground-breaking, important book....Will clearly be important to art historians and feminist critics of the late nineteenth century."--Susan Gubar, The Washington Times Magazine
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Top Customer Reviews
The greatest surprise is the obscurity yet quality of these works--you won't see them reproduced in any other art book, yet they are too entertaining and (sometimes) just plain daffy to deserve oblivion. Since subject matter is all that interests Mr.Dijkstra, they are unfortunately all in black and white, but the bold expressiveness of the compositions makes this only a minor flaw.
Almost as rich as this aesthetic feast is Mr. Dijkstra's commentary. Are you amused by 19th Century Puritanical screeds, right-wing condemnation of the Arts, or the Nazis' blather about "degenerate art"? If so, this scholar's views will be a revelation: a dour, fanatical, left-wing perspective! He has great insights into 19th Century culture, psychology, and "sexual politics," and these increase tenfold your enjoyment of the art.
But I was most delighted by his hilarious extremism, his intolerance for anything that won't fit within a microscopic window of "political correctness." The self-righteousness, the delusions (he describes a bucolic scene of frolicking cherubs as a harbinger of the Holocaust) and the choking fury he expends at long-dead paupers are a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Thank you, Mr. Dijkstra! Beyond a doubt, the most memorable art critique I've ever read.
More people may be familiar with Mario Praz's -The Romantic Agony-, again a tract tinged with moral hostility against the stasis and cruelty of "decadence," that once again serves as a lovely field guide to Symbolist and late Romantic poetry. Praz, perhaps fortunately for his present reputation, sticks with non-falsifiable and purely artistic criticisms.
The point here is that Nordau's and Praz's books in fact add relish and anticipation to the literary works they describe despite their moralistic thunders against them. It's applying reverse psychology to the Paglia/Spenser effect --- for Camille Paglia's -Sexual Personae-, whatever other merits or demerits it may have, has won more readers for Spenser's -Faerie Queene- these past several years than the poem probably had over the past century.Read more ›
This is feminism as conspiracy theory, the portrayal of culture as sex war, and it's joyless nonsense. The imagery in question is often exotic and edgy - but that's what interesting art does. If Dijkstra understood the art he castigates so energetically - chiefly Decadence - then he might begin to see the argument that perhaps beauty and pleasure are legitimate ends in their own right. Which is surely better than this ideological axe-grinding.
I'm afraid I have to disagree with those who praise the quality of the research in 'Idols of Perversity'. The author leans heavily on a couple of slender sources which are clearly pretty radical for their day as if they show the misogynist character of an entire era. We could use the SCUM Manifesto to portray all women as homicidal loons. But most of us are a little more grown up than that and just laugh at it, as I did with this. Women portrayed powerfully are 'demonised', women not portrayed powerfully are being repressed. Apparently. If any of his subjects fail to provide visuals or commentary to support his screed, Bram happily 'knows' what they were thinking anyhow.
I reluctantly recommend this. Five stars for the lavish - and frequently rare - imagery. One for the politically-correct propagandising - an average of three with one on top for giggles. If you enjoy Symbolist or Decadent art, do buy it, but also look out for the out-of-print 'Dreamers of Decadence' which covers the same area and with more appreciation and less sanctimonious baggage.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fantastic book; tons of images/illustrations surrounded by a truly comprehensive look at the cultural evaluations of fin-de-siecle artists and subcultures by their critics and... Read morePublished 20 months ago by skyla2186
I paid a lot for the deliver, but the book came in perfect shape and only 1 day later than expected (and the delay had to do with our customs office, I live in Argentina).Published on September 23, 2013 by Mariela Ferrari
a beautiful book I have two copies,You people should not require me to use a certain number of words, it just doesnt make sense. I only wanted to say it is good.Published on December 13, 2012 by Sprezzaturra
When you read about the impressionist painters such as Monet and Renoir you are always hearing that they had to start their own shows because they were being rejected by "The... Read morePublished on June 14, 2012 by T. Dreiling
From the standpoint of a study of art, this book is not worth having (even if it's at a good price) in spite of the rarely-often reproduced images. The images are poor. Read morePublished on January 6, 2012 by Doug Grandpre
A lot of customer reviews here already have pointed out the art Dijkstra assembles in "Idols" is a LOT more enjoyable and fascinating than his overheated prose. Read morePublished on September 30, 2009 by San Fernando Curt
Students of polymorphous perversity should consider having this book the equivalent of a lifetime membership in an illustrated encyclopedia in artistic themes which use women as a... Read morePublished on March 13, 2006 by Leah Osad
I read this book several years ago and to put it simply, it shook up my perceptions about the imagery used in art during that time. Read morePublished on May 22, 2001 by Maria Aragon