Castration : An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood book cover
1st Edition

An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood

ISBN 9780415938815
Published January 25, 2002 by Routledge
318 Pages

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Book Description

Castration is a lively history of the meaning, function, and act of castration from its place in the early church to its secular reinvention in the Renaissance as a spiritualized form of masculinity in its 20th century position at the core of psychoanalysis.



Gary Taylor is Professor of English and Director of the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama. His books include Cultural Selection: Why Some Achievements Stand the Test of Time and Others Don't and Reinventing Shakespeare: A Cultural History from the Restoration to the Present. He is the general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare.


"...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 detailed and 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."