- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult; First Printing edition (September 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670878839
- ISBN-13: 978-0670878833
- Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.4 x 6.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 229 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image First Printing Edition
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"Literacy has promoted the subjugation of women by men throughout all but the very recent history of the West," writes Leonard Shlain. "Misogyny and patriarchy rise and fall with the fortunes of the alphabetic written word."
That's a pretty audacious claim, one that The Alphabet Versus the Goddess provides extensive historical and cultural correlations to support. Shlain's thesis takes readers from the evolutionary steps that distinguish the human brain from that of the primates to the development of the Internet. The very act of learning written language, he argues, exercises the human brain's left hemisphere--the half that handles linear, abstract thought--and enforces its dominance over the right hemisphere, which thinks holistically and visually. If you accept the idea that linear abstraction is a masculine trait, and that holistic visualization is feminine, the rest of the theory falls into place. The flip side is that as visual orientation returns to prominence within society through film, television, and cyberspace, the status of women increases, soon to return to the equilibrium of the earliest human cultures. Shlain wisely presents this view of history as plausible rather than definite, but whether you agree with his wide-ranging speculations or not, he provides readers eager to "understand it all" with much to consider. --Ron Hogan
From Library Journal
The advantages of a literate society are self-evident, but is there a dark side to language? In this extraordinary book, Shlain, a surgeon and the author of Art and Physics (LJ 9/1/91), argues that when cultures acquire literacy, the brain's left hemisphere dominates the right?with enormous consequences. Alphabetic writing, Shlain believes, "subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook" at the expense of feminine values. Focusing on Western cultures, Shlain surveys world history and religion to illustrate how alphabet literacy fosters extremes of intolerance. Indeed, a subtheme of the book is that overreliance on the left hemisphere "initially leads a society through a period of demonstrable madness." Such aberrations as group suicide, religious persecution, and witch-hunting are the result of a dominant linear, reductionist, and abstract method of perception. While admitting that "correlation does not prove causality," Shlain presents a forceful case based on a wealth of circumstantial evidence. An absorbing, provocative, and, ironically, highly literate work that should receive considerable review attention; recommended for most public and academic libraries.?Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Springfield, IL
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Writing is linear, left-brain activity. That, evidently, is not a natural tendency of women. Before that howl leaves your mouth, my own experience is that very few people are proficient at using both sides of their brain, and in that group, very few can use both sides simultaneously.For those of you-- the majority of people-- who let one side of the brain dominate, let me say that you are trying to run a successful race by hopping on one leg.
I am a very left-handed male, which makes me very right-brained. I am also capable of analytical thinking to the extent that I am well-paid to do it.
More people can do this. To the extent that Schlain's book opens up a discussion on how to get all brains operating in stereo, great.
The analytical types, for both good and ill, have organized and tend to dominate the world. Women need to accept themselves and be accepted by men as capable of analytical perception, and their right-brain skills need to be welcomed as essential contributions to progress. Now, put this in a mirror, and see what men ought to do. As I read the work, Hegel's master/slave relationship discussion looms large and close.
Brain science has been uncovering a lot of information on left-right brain functioning, brain pathologies, and man's ability to make reasonable decisions.
I had always been dismayed by the sheer insanity of violence wrought in the name of religion, the pyschosis that has plagued so much of our history as a species. Intrigued by minds that are fixated on the literal "word", while ignoring the frailities of those who at a later date set down the oral history of some of the greatest prophet-philosopher-gods. As a Catholic, I was only too aware of the way the mysogyny of the interpreters of the original gospel texts altered orifginal transcriptions and skewed and censored out portions of the oral history that clashed with their views of the world. Within Christianity there has probably been more research of all existing texts and documents to see that "The Word" has been distorted in ways that have not served either humanity as a whole or the message of Christ. It would be an error to assume that similar alterations did not occurr in all major religions whose written texts appears years after their prophets waked the face of the earth. Much like history which is often the story of the victor with no in depth understanding of the vanquished who is generally demonized by the author of any text, the history of man is altered the same way. It take a lot of reading to ferret out texts that tell the other side of any story in a way to obtain a clearer picture of what was occuring; and even with this effort any reader has to acknowledge that the predujices of the reader and the reader's culture often colors the final conclusion.
This is a very engagng book, and offers a compelling theory of what lead societies and cultures to descend into periods of total madness and depths of terror and mayhem that have always made us despair in our capacity to inflict unspeakable horrors and genocide of those identified as "others", "heretics" and "infidels": and our quickness to demonize those who fail to see the world the way we see it.
Thought provoking this text alters the way we think about our global history. It definitely should be a must read for anyone who wants to understand what hierarchies can wrought. It is through knowledge that we have the potential not to repeat the errors of our past.
Long Live the Goddess and sacred Feminine and all that she stands for! "For too long has it been a 'Man's World', with Woman in her place, down with all that I say and empower woman with her loving grace!" -- Heman Chase Mill Hollow NH
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Also excellent Woman Studies Course Material.