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Crying [Paperback]

Tom Lutz
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Behind the human eye lies a complex system of dozens of secretory and excretory glands bearing such names as "crypts of Henle" and "Wolfring's glands." These glands combine to produce basal tears that flow into the nasolacrimal duct, which in turn empties into the nose. Under the right conditions of irritation, emotion, or illness, the glands yield more liquid than the nasolacrimal duct can handle, causing tears to spill out and drain over the eyelids. Thus crying, a rare human universal that we share with no other creature, for which reason Charles Darwin called it "a special expression of man."

There you have the basic science behind crying, a branch of inquiry that in literary scholar Tom Lutz's view ought to but does not bear the name "lacrimology" or even "lamentology." Lutz considers the natural history of weeping, writing vigorously and accessibly about the mysterious workings of the human body. But more, he looks into the cultural rules that surround crying, especially those in Western societies that only in the last few decades have established norms whereby women are supposed to cry freely in times of stress and trouble, whereas men are not. Illustrating his cultural history with examples from literature and art, Lutz delivers a fine, eminently readable exercise in popular anthropology, one that will be of wide interest. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Observing that the act of weeping is exclusively human, though its interpretation is by no means universal, Lutz (American Nervousness, 1903) offers a fascinating, multi-disciplinary study of tears. With a fluid style and an astonishingly vast reachAencompassing history, literature, the arts and the social sciencesALutz explores how crying has been portrayed and perceived throughout history. In a dense but essential section, he examines the physiology of tears and cites theorists, Darwin among them, who considered crying a physical, muscular act. Of course, tears are more commonly viewed as expressing "a surplus of feeling over thinking," whether of sorrow, happiness, pain, relief, pride, empathy, catharsis, deception (as in crocodile tears) or any combination of these emotions. Lutz asks not only why we cry, but why we stop crying and how we react to another person's tears. His examination of gender stereotypes and the traditional division of emotional "labor" in our society, according to which women cry and men restrain themselves, is especially provocative. Turning to pop culture, Lutz comments on how contemporary American gender-typing has shifted in books, movies and real life, noting two iconic images: Jacqueline Kennedy's stoic reserve at her husband's funeral and Michael Jordan's open sobbing at a championship victory. This accomplished work is a rich treat for anyone intrigued by emotional displays. (Aug.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Crying from emotion is perhaps the only activity that is uniquely human, yet its meaning is complex, sometimes signifying weakness and deceit and other times sincerity and strength. Lutz (English, Univ. of Iowa; American Nervousness, 1903) explores the fluid meanings of crying. Much in the spirit of Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses (LJ 3/1/91), Lutz looks at crying from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, politics, and literature, tracing the shifting history of our understanding. His treatment is accessible and a pleasure to read. If the book is sometimes cavalier with peripheral facts and does not footnote sources, it is nevertheless a valuable contribution to cultural history.
-AThomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A clear-eyed look at the freighted meanings of teary eyes, Lutz's excursion into lacrimation insightfully grapples with the fundamentally ineffable aspects of crying. Why do we cry, indeed? The newborn baby bawls for months, and pediatricians and parents still don't know why. Is crying a catharsis of emotions? A sincere or manipulative expression of one's emotional state, whether joyful or mournful? Lutz wagers that convincing answers will be found not in physiology or psychology--though he presents chapters on each--but in artistic representations of crying. The spread of his examples certainly moves his text along. From Achilles weeping over the dead Patroklos to today's teens returning repeatedly to wail over the movie Titanic, Lutz agilely handles tearjerkers through the ages and the ambiguous messages the fictional weepers send. Is Achilles just sad or mad with revenge? Lutz further delves into the varied cultural contexts of crying, underscoring that such a simple behavior is far from a simple constituent of human nature. An affable, stimulating essay. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

An exceptionally fine, interdisciplinary study that uses physiology, individual and social psychology, literature, cultural history, and other disciplines to help us understand in depth the most basic expression of human sorrow. Lutz (American Nervousness, 1903: A History of Nervous Illness at the Turn of the Century, not reviewed) analyzes how we produce tears and writes clearly about the different kinds of crying. For example, emotional tears (the kind you shed at a wedding or a funeral) have more protein than reflex tears (the kind you get from slicing an onion). Looking at crying through a cultural lens, he notes that while the medieval monasticists thought of tears as a gift from God and a tribute to Him, today we have come to see weeping in far more instrumental terms; one of Lutzs chapters is entitled Tears of Revenge, Seduction, Escape, and Empathy. His best writing focuses on how weeping is highly influenced by pyschosocial expectations, gender roles (women tend to cry more, men less, when with someone of the opposite sex), and cultural norms. A particularly fascinating passage deals with someone weeping in the context of the highly elaborate, protracted traditional funeral rituals of premodern Korea. Lutzs fascinating chapter on Fictional Tears covers a wide range of works, from The Odyssey to John Irvings The Cider House Rules. His emphasis is on 20th-century writers, whose characters often have difficulty weeping, suffer from the self- alienated state that T.S. Eliot called the dissociation of sensibility. Concerning the current cult of crying as cathartic or otherwise therapeutic, particularly for men, Lutz has some acerbic things to say and quotes a number of witty observations on this emotional trend, such as Nora Ephrons Its true that men who cry are sensitive and in touch with their feelings, but the only feelings they tend to be sensitive to and in touch with are their own. Near the beginning of his book, Lutz observes that There are a dozen books on laughter . . . for every one on tears. This original, well-researched, highly informative, engaging, and otherwise beautifully written work, which unmistakably is one of the decades best on the emotional life, goes a very long way towards redressing that imbalance. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Highly readable. . . . A fascinating and thoughtful book. -- Merle Rubin, Los Angeles Times

About the Author

Tom Lutz lives in Los Angeles and Iowa City, where he teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of American Nervousness, 1903: A History of Nervous Illness at the Turn of the Century.
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