- Hardcover: 318 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (October 27, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415927854
- ISBN-13: 978-0415927857
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,866,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Early in this absorbing treatise on the changing nature of manhood in Western culture, English professor Taylor remarks, "This is a specter that has haunted men for centuries: the fear that manhood will become, or has already become, obsolete, superfluous, ridiculous, at best quaint, at worst disgusting." Nowhere, he contends, is this specter more obvious than in the cringing reaction most men have to the word "castration." In this book, Taylor uses an imaginative analysis of the history and purposes of castration to examine the cultural construct of masculinityDspecifically in relation to reproduction. Equally comfortable discussing the implications of pop singer Tori Amos's lyrics as he is reinterpreting the antisexual writings of church fathers Justin Martyr, Clement and Tertullian or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Taylor gracefully guides the reader through carefully constructed arguments that go so far as to declare that, in some times and cultures, being a eunuch is a social advantage. In a feat of bravura literary criticism, he uses a detailed explication of Thomas Middleton's obscure but important 1624 play A Game of Chess (a metaphysical commentary on the Reformation) as the centerpiece of his many-pronged cultural investigationDa move that is both audacious and illuminating. But while Taylor's expertise as a Renaissance scholar shines here, he shrewdly and subtly links the play's concerns to such varied historical events as the history of psychoanalysis and sexual racism toward blacks and Jews. Though of primary interest to literary scholars and historians of sexuality, this work will also reward sophisticated general readers with its wit (including a cover depicting the upper torso and wincing head of a Greek male statue) and insight. (Nov. 30)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
...the good news is that Taylor is riveting on Middleton. ...Taylor knows his stuff... -- Rowan Pelling, New Statesman
The journey is entertaining and informativie... -- Rowan Pelling, New Statesman
...Taylor seems as cheerily loony as his title. His prose style springs from the groovy prof school of writing, so Abelard and Foucault are quoted alongside Christina Aguilera and Tori Amos... -- Rowan Pelling, New Statesman
Not for purists; great fun for anyone else. -- Choice, M.J. Emery, Cottey College
An absorbing treatise on the changing nature of manhood in Western culture. that uses a wide range of literature to explore male fears. It will reward sophisticated general readers with its wit and insight. -- Publishers Weekly
[An] absorbing treatise on the changing nature of manhood in Western culture. In this book, Taylor uses an imaginative analysis of the history and purposes of castration to examine the cultural construct of masculinity -specifically in relation to reproduction. Equally comfortable discussing the implications of pop singer Tori Amos's lyrics as he is reinterpreting the anti-sexual writings of church fathers Justin Martyr, Clement and Tertullian or Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Taylor gracefully guides the reader through carefully constructed arguments that go so far as to declare that, in some times and cultures, being a eunich is a social advantage. -- Publishers Weekly
(continued) In a feat of bravura literary criticism, he uses a detailed explication of Thomas Middleton's obscure but important 1624 play A Game of Chess. as the centerpiece of his many-pronged cultural investigation - a move that is both audacious and illuminating. But while Taylor's expertise as a Renaissance scholar shines here, he shrewdly and subtly links the play's concerns to such varied historical events as the history of psychoanalysis and sexual racism toward blacks and Jews. Though of primary interest to literary scholars and historians of sexuality, this work will also reward sophisticated general readers with its wit. and insight. -- Publishers Weekly
This dense, scholarly yet thoroughly entertaining book examines the uses of castration... along with thousands of years' worth of popular attitudes about the male genitals. Taylor posits that understanding what it means to be biologically unmanned is an excellent way to understand what it means to be a man. You don't need to be enthusiastic about this thesis -- or even to be male -- to find Castration terrific reading. -- Salon
A passionate, provocative history of ideas about male sexuality--and the best account of castration you're ever likely to read. -- Maggie Paley, author of The Book of the Penis
Gary Taylor's Castration is learned, provocative, and surprisingly persuasive. It is entirely characteristic of its author, at once polemical and reasonable, historically detailedand wildly imaginative. I found it endlessly informative and compulsively readable. -- Stephen Orgel
Taylor's writing is academic in the best sense -- well-researched and unapologetically informed (and opinionated) about both high and popular culture. This isn't USA Today-style speculation about trends and people. Taylor's ideas are so well-reasoned that the reader is gladly seduced into following each argument as far as it goes. Taylor's uxtaposition of history, culture, and psychology, along with his comfort about sexuality, breaks new ground here. The reader's relationship to genitalia -- his/her own and others' -- is forever changed after reading this excellent book. By examining sexuality in its historical context, crucial for understanding other civilizations, he makes the arbitrariness of our own erotic beliefs startlingly visible. - Marty Klein, Ph.D Libido: the Journal of Sex and Sensibility.
Taylor has written a thoroughly engaging and witty account of the history and misconceptions of castration... Castration provides a useful, original, lively, and long overdue look at one of mankind;s most essential physical and cultural components. -Virginia Quarterly Review.
Top customer reviews
Eunuchs, just like oxen, were useful. They guarded the harems, for one job, but power in the bedchamber within some societies became legal or military power. A eunuch had no testicles, but had enough genitalia left to play games in the harem. Jesus spoke highly of eunuchs, and Taylor makes the case that he was speaking literally. Augustine, however, insisted that Jesus's words were an allegory to promote priestly celibacy.
Taylor is a Shakespearean scholar (the editor of the Oxford Shakespeare), and in a show of scholarly breadth cites plenty of the Bard, but cites also other Elizabethan playwrights as well as Tori Amos and Christina Aguilera. Funny, provocative, scholarly, and decidedly offbeat, _Castration_ is a witty tour-de-force.
In my view, today's attitudes toward manhood and males are best understood in terms of our lacking moral sympathies toward them. Taylor's book is no exception. We are not a generation influenced by Freud so much as by feminism. Thus, the historical abuse and mutilation of women is a subject deadly serious and pertinent to us while the sexual abuse and humiliation of men is treated like something that never happened - that is, something we've misconstured, or, in Tayor's case, given a fictional reinterpretation, mocked and trivalized. Taylor's ignorant belief (not first person, of course) about the sexual prowess of eunuchs is one case in point. Another case in point is Tayor's view that for most of western history castration was a mark of power and divinity and, as the ultimate abrogation of sexual desire, had wide spread currency among Christian metaphysicians. This is nonsense. Taylor is arguing anecdotally to his own foregone conclusions. He wasn't there to take any polls. No doubt, some Christian cults managed to appropriate practices of sexual mutilation already in place - just as Christian nihilism helped to make slavery seem worthy. This did not, however, make such practices any more agreeable as hardly anyone wanted to suffer either condition themselves. In any case, the spiritualized feelings attained by some Christian monks through self mutilation would have appalled the Greeks - the paragons of western civilization - as it has most men throughout all of human history.
Taylor's book about castration will score a few points for the concept of cultural relativism on a subject that now seems, at best, uncontroversial or, at worst, comic to the immature. Should he chose to write volumes exploring the gamut of humanity's attitudes regarding every other form of sexual nastiness, he will no doubt find endless tolerance to be feted as well. Would he dare?