Heartthrobs : A History of Women and Desire

3.38 (136 ratings by Goodreads)
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What can a cultural history of the heartthrob teach us about women, desire, and social change? From dreams of Prince Charming or dashing military heroes, to the lure of dark strangers and vampire lovers; from rock stars and rebels to soulmates, dependable family types or simply good companions, female fantasies about men tell us as much about the history of women as about masculine icons.

When girls were supposed to be shrinking violets, passionate females risked being seen as 'unbridled', or dangerously out of control. Change came slowly, and young women remained trapped in double-binds. You may have needed a husband in order to survive, but you had to avoid looking like a gold-digger. Sexual desire could be dangerous: a rash guide to making choices. Show attraction too openly and you might be judged 'fast' and undesirable.

Education and wage-earning brought independence and a widening of cultural horizons. Young women in the early twentieth century showed a sustained appetite for novel-reading, cinema-going, and the dancehall. They sighed over Rudolph Valentino's screen performances, as tango-dancer, Arab tribesman, or desert lover. Contemporary critics were sniffy about 'shop-girl' taste in literature and in men, but as consumers, girls had new clout.

In Heartthrobs, social and cultural historian Carol Dyhouse draws upon literature, cinema, and popular romance to show how the changing position of women has shaped their dreams about men, from Lord Byron in the early nineteenth century to boy-bands in the early twenty-first. Reflecting on the history of women as consumers and on the nature of fantasy, escapism, and 'fandom', she takes us deep into the world of gender and the imagination. A great deal of feminist literature has shown
women as objects of the 'male gaze': this book looks at men through the eyes of women.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 144 x 222 x 28mm | 420g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 26 Black & white illustrations
  • 0198765835
  • 9780198765837
  • 500,508

Table of contents

1: Her heart's desire: what did women want?
2: Unbridled passions
3: Packaging the male
4: Once upon a dream: Prince Charming, cavaliers, Regency beaux
5: Dark princes, foreign powers: desert lovers, outsiders and vampires
6: Soul-mates: intimacy, integrity, trust
7: Power: protection, transformative magic and patriarchy
8: Sighing for the moon?
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Review Text

Dyhouse has crushed a lot of rich, entertaining material into this book, a tight jostle of regency rakes and daring sheikhs, boy bands and Brontës. Victoria Segal, The Sunday Times
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Review quote

Dyhouse has crushed a lot of rich, entertaining material into this book, a tight jostle of regency rakes and daring sheikhs, boy bands and Brontes. * Victoria Segal, The Sunday Times * ... this is a book that invites argument, and which romps along at an appropriately breathless pace. * Claire Armitstead, The Guardian * A cultural history of idealised men constructed by the female gaze, it takes us on a tour of pop stars, film stars and literary romantic heroes. * Caroline Criado-Perez, The Observer * An even-tempered book that raises lots of fascinating questions. * Roger Lewis, The Mail on Sunday * [A] terrific book. * The Daily Mail * A cultural history of desire that pulls off the rare trick of being both capacious and concise. * The Wall Street Journal * Dyhouse has a fresh and mischievous style. * Julie Burchill, The New Statesman * A grand tour of female-created fantasies about ... men can never be a dull ride - and Dyhouse presents the reader with some titillating examples. * The Times Literary Supplement * It is at once scholarly, humorous and utterly gripping. * Juanita Coulson, The Lady * Dyhouse is insightful, jargon-free and witty. * The Times Higher Education Supplement * A very wonderful, interesting, captivating book. * Anna Maria Polidori, Al Femminile * Fascinating, entertaining book. * Rachael Popow, On: Yorkshire Magazine * A rather celebratory study of heterosexual female desire that embraces its reactionary, as well as its progressive, aspects. * Lesley McDowell, The Herald * Very informative. * Sonntagszeitung * This is a well-researched, highly readable and intriguing book. * Cambridge Magazine * ... tremendously interesting and useful. Dyhouse combines impressive learning and research with a highly approachable style and a nice command of witty one-liners. * Shiny New Books * There's a lot to consider here, and it's a book that I can't recommend highly enough. * Desperate Reader * Packed with numerous cultural references which will spark your own memories and opinions, this this an entertaining and thought-provoking read. * There's a book for that * A smart and sensitive look at its topic, this book provides thoughtful commentary on the driving forces behind women's imaginations and an intriguing if selective look at classic romantic figures. * Library Journal * Carol Dyhouse writes about women's desire with her customary brio, delicious humour, and eclectic cultural references. * Helen Taylor, Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter * ... the book ranges fluently across literature, film, music, and television. Heartthrobs is erudite, accessible, funny, and invaluable-a genuinely insightful, and enjoyable, work of cultural history. * Rachel Moseley, Professor of Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick * Carol Dyhouse asks tough, scholarly questions about what-or rather who-makes female hearts beat faster. * Kathryn Hughes, Professor of Life Writing, University of East Anglia *
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About Carol Dyhouse

Carol Dyhouse is Professor (Emeritus) of History at the University of Sussex. She has written extensively about the social history of women, gender, and education. Her recent publications include Glamour: Women, History, Feminism (2011) and Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (2013). She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and in 2004 she was awarded an honorary D.Litt from the University of Winchester in
recognition of her work on history and education.
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Rating details

136 ratings
3.38 out of 5 stars
5 10% (13)
4 32% (43)
3 47% (64)
2 10% (14)
1 1% (2)
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