- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press (April 14 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594205639
- ISBN-13: 978-1594205637
- Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.6 x 24.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #154,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch Hardcover – Apr 14 2015
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Publishers Weekly (starred review):
With humor, literary allusions, and a casual, unprepossessing style, Gottschall explores such related subjects as duels, bullying, English football, men’s “love-hate” relationship to war, and violent entertainment from gladiator games to MMA."
“The Professor in the Cage is not just Gottschall's story, but a look at the history of violence itself…. you read Gottschall getting smarter and smarter about his subject as he gets closer and closer to risking his life in the cage.”
“Gottschall’s writing proves much smoother and easier to digest than the mayhem he undertakes in the cage. He buttresses his work, as all academics do, with 35 pages of endnotes and bibliography, attesting to the research he undertook to complement his road to the ring. The reader learns why animals fight, why women don’t, and why eye contact and facial expressions often win bouts before the bell rings.”
Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University; and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature:
“What a charming and illuminating book! With scientific acumen and literary panache, Gottschall immerses himself, and us, in an ancient part of the male psyche. Among the many treats in this book are the history of recreational fighting, a limpid explanation of sexual selection, and a sympathetic portrayal of working-class men that’s worthy of a great novelist.”
Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, and Waking Up:
“Jonathan Gottschall has written a wonderfully honest, entertaining, and insightful book about violence, manhood, courage, and the wisdom that can be gleaned from getting punched in the face. If you’ve ever wondered why combat is a perennial source of fascination for us, and whether this fascination can be channeled toward truly productive ends, The Professor in the Cage is the book to read.”
About the Author
Jonathan Gottschall is a Distinguished Research Fellow in the English Department at Washington & Jefferson College. His research has been covered in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times, Scientific American, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and on NPR. His blog, The Storytelling Animal, is featured at Psychology Today. His book, The Storytelling Animal, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice Selection and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.See all Product description
Top Customer Reviews
Of course, none of that should be understood to lead to men diminishing the dignity and rights of women. In fact, the idea that the vast majority of women are attracted to genuine masculinity is far more than anecdotal drivel. Simply put, women being feminine and men being masculine are absolutely natural to our species, and to many others as well. And this book help set the framework for men to do their part in a way that honors and respects both themselves and the women in their lives.
Having said all that, those who are simply interested in the psychology of contact sports will greatly benefit from reading this book. As the author does a fabulous job of describing both the objective and subjective dimensions of fighting. And how one can use contact sport to become a better man and à better and more aware human being, and without the trappings of Eastern philosophy. Indeed, this book is about raw truth.
The book, to its credit, is far from straight-arrow anthropology. Gottschall discourages the romantic notion, which devoted fight fans may entertain in an effort to pacify guilt or stigma, that it is one’s intellectual cupidity which principally drives his or her desire to fight, or (more likely the case) to watch fighting, and he holds it as unenlightened as to believe—as nonfans may—that it is a lack of intelligence or civility. The Professor in the Cage corrects for both these pandemic misconceptions, but not without correcting some of its own. Gottschall, upon first entering Mark Shrader’s Mixed Martial Arts Academy (located across the street from his English department office at Washington & Jefferson College), promptly finds his assumptions about fighting and fighters whited out.
Gottschall’s title, of course, implies novelty. The checker on the chessboard. Columbus discovering his New World. “The main objective of fighting sports,” he writes, “is to temporarily shut down the other guy’s brain,” so why, the reader wonders, would an academic join a brain-damage academy? Why join ‘the savages’? But one of the first lessons Gottschall learns is how unremarkable his lack of qualifications really is. (Even newly minted UFC heavyweight champion, Stipe Miocic, works full-time as a firefighter outside of training.) Violence, Gottschall argues, is simply an appetite that all men have (and here he explores why men and not women, disproportionately, are thus disposed). Oftentimes it is those who were victims in the past, he points out, or whose present vocation is so far removed from even a whisper of such indulgences, that are more likely to strap on the gloves.
A writer able to present the facts with a fabulist’s flare, Gottschall uses mixed martial arts as a kind of literary chariot through man’s history of violence. Because, under these lights, surely, why men fight is not nearly the conundrum that “why don’t they“ is. As for why we watch, Gottschall believes the driving ecstasy of fighting is its being “a genre of staged tragedy”, such as bullfighting was for Hemingway and boxing for Oates. “If boxing is a sport,” Gottschall quotes Oates as saying, “it is the most tragic of all sports because more than any human activity it consumes the very excellence it displays.” Reflecting on, as in the introduction to this review, the simulational talent of an MMA canvas to manifest not only displays of athletic pyrotechny but the circumstances of said athletes’ demise—unconsciousness here generated by choking as well as striking—this is all the more apt.
“A fight,” Gottschall concludes, “is drama sweated to the bones—an enactment of the whole human tangle, with everything lovely and terrible on display.” And with mixed martial arts’ continued rise in popularity, per annum, those stage lights now double as microscopes. There is little tolerance on the modern fightscape for what Gottschall calls “the myth of the martial arts”, the notion that any of these disciplines represents the perfect and sacred schematic for mano a mano combat; the last twenty years have without question illuminated flaws and strengths both relative and respective. As does The Professor in the Cage—which, in keeping with the traditions it grapples, is an education on mind even moreso than body. This, however, in no way keeps the book from earning its title as one of the most engaging, down-to-earth examinations of sport and human violence one will find.
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