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The Scandal of Pleasure: Art in an Age of Fundamentalism

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226772240
ISBN-10: 0226772241
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Reviewing the controversy over Robert Mapplethorpe's many photos of sadomasochistic scenes and Andres Serrano's iconoclastic sculpture, University of Pennsylvania English professor Steiner argues that art, however disturbing, cannot be obscene because artworks, as thought-experiments, are always open to personal interpretations. The anti-pornography campaign of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin ignores reports that no solid evidence exists to link pornography with rape or child abuse, declares Steiner, who castigates their militant feminism as an "unholy alliance between the far left and the far right." Interpreting Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses as a satirical attack on Islamic fundamentalism, she defends his artistic integrity and reads his novel as a work of magic realism. She also ponders the failure of teachers to live up to their precepts, as exemplified by philosopher Martin Heidegger, a dues-paying Nazi. Her brilliant, incisive essays breathe fresh air into the debate over artistic freedom and political correctness.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Steiner (English, Univ. of Pennsylvania) takes on the Mapplethorpe/Serrano/NEA blowup, the Ayatollah's death sentence on Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses, the Dworkin-MacKinnon anti-pornography movement, political correctness, and the disparity between the scholarly and political activities of Anthony Blunt, Martin Heidegger, and Paul de Man. Her intelligent, evenhanded presentation of the events and issues involved in each argues against the literalism of the Left and Right, which both see art as identical to reality. Steiner instead emphasizes that art is a virtual reality whose pleasurable enjoyment can enable us to master the difference between fantasy and reality. Her book is calm and rational?qualities in short supply in the current climate of hysteria over the questions she treats. For literature collections.?Richard Kuczkowski, Dominican Coll., Blauvelt, N.Y.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 263 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226772241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226772240
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,398,356 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Ms. Steiner eloquently upholds and defends freedoms protected by the First Amendment in the first part of the book. The second part seems less focused, and she seems to want it both ways - freedom of speech AND political correctness. She should remember that although racism and prejudice are bad, the ends do not justify the means, and she turned me off in the second half by seeming to say that political correctness are the only acceptable alternative to all these various -isms at work today. But, on the whole, because the first part is so good, I give it four stars.
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Reading the book, I felt it should have been written more like a collection of essays, independent of each other. There is a certain lack of cohesion in transitioning from one scenario to another. Photography, literature and philosophy are all different subjects, they may have some similarities in how they are perhaps experienced or perceived, but overall there were too many tangents all across the table to follow some kind of reasonable middle ground were you could then move on to the next chapter.

The points she raises are important and the book is worth reading.
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