'Sexual anarchy' - dire predictions, disasters, apocalypse - became the hallmark of the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The New Woman and the Odd Woman threatened male identity and self-esteem; teh emergence of feminism and homosexuality meant the redefining of masculinity and femininity. This is the terrain which Elaine Showalter explores with such consummate originality and wit. Looking at parallels between the ends of the 19th and 20th centuries and their representations in literature, art and film, she ranges over the trial of Oscar Wilde, the public furore over prostitution and syphilis, moral outrage over the breakdown of the family, abortion rights and AIDS. High and low culture - from male quest romances to contemporary male bonding movies (Heart of Darkness reworked into Apocalypse Now), Freud to Fatal Attraction - all are part of this scholarly and entertaining study of the fin de siecle.
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Elaine Showalter was born in Cambridge, Mass in 1941 and was educated at Bryn Mawr College and the University of California. From 1967 to 1984 she taught at English and Women's Studies at Rutger's University and is now Professor of English at Princeton University.From Library Journal:
A history of the sexes and the crises, themes, and problems associated with the battle for sexual supremacy and identity, this work draws striking cultural parallels between the end of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century. Showalter explores the history and attitudes toward homosexuality, unmarried men and women, the concepts of masculinity and femininity, sexual fears and fantasies, sexual surgery, and sexual epidemics as represented in psychological, medical, and literary texts, visual art, and film. Fascinating and provocative, this book reflects the realities of history repeating itself and the impact of gender crisis on culture.
- Jeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, N.J.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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