The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History

The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History

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From South Park to Kathy Acker, from Lars Von Trier to Sex and the City, women's sexual organs are demonized. In The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History, Emma L.E. Rees investigates the evolution of this demonization: she considers how writers, artists and filmmakers contend with the dilemma of he vagina's puzzling 'covert visibility' and how the 'c-word' is an obscenity that both legitimates and perpetuates the fractured identities of women globally.

In our postmodern, porn-obsessed culture, vaginas appear to be everywhere, literally or symbolically but, crucially, they are as silenced as they are objectified. Even common slang terms for the vagina can be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from the reality of women's lived sexual experiences: slang offers a convenient distraction from something 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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Product details

  • Paperback | 376 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 25.4mm | 624g
  • Bloomsbury Academic USA
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1x8pp colour plate section
  • 1628922125
  • 9781628922127
  • 482,096

Table of contents

1. Revealing the Vagina: Introduction
2. Revealing the Vagina: Antecedents
3.Revealing the Vagina in Literature
4. Revealing the Vagina in Visual Art (1): Judy Chicago
5. Revealing the Vagina in Visual Art (2): Birth's Wide Berth
6. Revealing the Vagina on Film and TV
7. Revealing the Vagina in Performance Art
8. Revealing the Vagina: Conclusion
Revealing the Vagina: Bibliography
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Review Text

Rees' book is the kind of work we need more of if we are to challenge and reconfigure how we understand women and sexuality in contemporary discourse. Shahidha Bari, Queen Mary, University of London, UK Times Higher Education 20130815
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Review quote

Rees' book is the kind of work we need more of if we are to challenge and reconfigure how we understand women and sexuality in contemporary discourse. -- Shahidha Bari, Queen Mary, University of London, UK * Times Higher Education * For readers disappointed by Naomi Wolf's treatise on a similar topic last year, this is the book you've been waiting for... This may not be the definitive text on the vagina - Rees is clear that she can't overturn centuries of embarrassment and taboo in a single book - but it's an excellent place to start. -- Kaite Welsh * The Independent on Sunday * It is my contention that you will know quite instinctively if you are the target reader for a book describing itself as a literary and cultural history of vaginas. (Vaginae? Vaginodes?) How does this description of Judy Chicago's art make you feel? "Each plate, a vulvar motif at its centre, represents a woman's yearning for autonomy and recognition away from patriarchy's eradications and constraints." If you found that intriguing, rather than snigger-worthy or arcanely academic, you will enjoy what's on offer here. There is a learned digression on other words for vagina...and a survey of depictions of female genitalia in folk tales, film, literature, art and television... The examples are well chosen and engaging. -- Helen Lewis * New Statesman * 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 With Vagina, Rees is aiming for something well beyond 'feminism.' To get there, she uses humor, numerous examples, and careful explanation as she moves effortlessly through a variety of historical periods and a wide genre of 'art' to demonstrate her point. -- Judy A. Hayden, Professor of English and Writing and Director of the Women's Studies Program, University of Tampa, USA. Analyses of representations of the vagina in art and culture couple with feminist politics in this impassioned tract by University of Chester lecturer Rees. * Publisher's Weekly * 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. Ortherfer * The Complete Review * Don't be fooled by the playful pink cover-this book is not for the faint of heart. Ranging from Indian folktales of vagina dentata to the surprising popularity of vaginas in postmodern art, Rees' book is a whirlwind tour of the literary and cultural history of the treatment (and mistreatment) of female genitalia. -- Rebecca Hayes * Booklist *
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About Senior Lecturer Emma L. E. Rees

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

116 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 35% (41)
4 39% (45)
3 20% (23)
2 3% (3)
1 3% (4)
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