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The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History [Hardcover]

Emma L. E. Rees
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 1 2013 1623568714 978-1623568719
From South Park to Kathy Acker, and from Lars Von Trier to Sex and the City, women’s sexual organs are demonized. Rees traces the fascinating evolution of this demonization, considering how calling the ‘c-word’ obscene both legitimates and perpetuates the fractured identities of women globally. Rees demonstrates how writers, artists, and filmmakers contend with the dilemma of the vagina’s puzzlingly ‘covert visibility’.

In our postmodern, porn-obsessed culture, vaginas appear to be everywhere, literally or symbolically but, crucially, they are as silenced as they are objectified. The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History examines the paradox of female genitalia through five fields of artistic expression: literature, film, TV, visual, and performance art.

There is a peculiar paradox – unlike any other – regarding female genitalia. Rees focuses on this paradox of what is termed the ‘covert visibility’ of the vagina and on its monstrous manifestations. That is, what happens when the female body refuses to be pathologized, eroticized, or rendered subordinate to the will or intention of another? Common, and often offensive, slang terms for the vagina can be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from the reality of women’s lived sexual experiences such that we don’t ‘look’ at the vagina itself – slang offers a convenient distraction to something so taboo. The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History is an important contribution to the ongoing debate in understanding the feminine identity

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The broadest survey yet ....lively, thought-provoking, and richly researched.  Naomi Wolf, author of Vagina: A New Biography

At last! A book on the vagina that I feel privileged to endorse. This careful literary and cultural history explores the vagina primarily as a loaded cultural symbol. It critiques the numerous ways in which the female sexual organs have had deleterious meanings projected onto them by patriarchal society. A magnificent achievement, Rees's study is as insightful in its analysis as it is comprehensive in its historical coverage.  Lisa Downing, Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality, University of Birmingham, UK.

This really wonderful book on the cultural history of the vagina is scholarly and accessible, entertaining and serious. It is stylish and packed with insight; it will be seized upon and devoured by the new feminists. The Vagina bejazzles. I highly recommend it.  Sally R Munt, Professor of Cultural and Gender Studies, University of Sussex

"Rees is especially strong on the rapidly evolving (and more in-your-face) artistic (or would-be artistic) representation of the [vagina] in contemporary (Western, and even here basically American and British) culture, both fringe and more mainstream...Rees offers many interesting examples and the odd tidbit[s] (Courbet's L'origine du monde comes from the collection of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan!), and though she works more by example than evaluation, there's a lot of useful information here." - M.A. Orthorfer, The Complete Review

About the Author

Emma L.E. Rees is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Chester, UK.

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars History of the institution Jan. 25 2014
By ellison
Format:Kindle Edition
Appears to be a college paper, features a 40 page introduction . Discussion of what words mean and the impact they have on the people who hear them. Features some black and white photos and some art photos in the middle.

Occasional insight into the human condition. Mentions plays, movies, and televison and how the parts of the body are mentioned.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
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5.0 out of 5 stars More than you would expect Oct. 9 2013
By stephen howe - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I saw this book reviewed in our local Sydney newspaper and it received excellent reviews.As a doctor(and a man) I was interested by this book on professional and personal levels.It gave an excellent insight into the myths and taboos surrounding the female organ.We should all respect it,after all over fifty percent of the population have one, and most of us came out of one!
Sadly,medical school (in the 1980s) did not teach female medicine well.The anatomy and physiology of the female genitalia perhaps,but this excellent book looks at the social and cultural aspects as well.I think this should be a required text for any doctor dealing with females.Well done Ms.Rees!
3.0 out of 5 stars History of April 14 2014
By ellison - Published on
Written by a British author it appears to be a college paper as it features a 40 page introduction and each chapter has pages of notes. Contains black and white photos and 8 pages of color photos. Mentions movies, plays, and televison programs where the topic is discussed. Mentions the impact of words and the mysteries enclosed.
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