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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



The Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan (Knopf) The long-awaited new book by the world-renowned psychologist whose In a Different Voice, published two decades ago, started an intellectual revolution by showing that theories of human psychology, based on studies of men, had overlooked and distorted basic aspects of the human experience.
Now, in The Birth of Pleasure, Carol Gilligan, once again breaking through imprisoning tradition, writes about love and the forces that stand in the way of pleasure. She shows us why love between a man and a woman is so often burdened by a history of loss and how it can be freed and opened to the pursuit of happiness. Tracing a lineage from Greek mythology to our own most intimate relationships, she asks why we relive tragic stories of loss and betrayal; drawing on her own research, she offers a radical new map of love.

Within the sweep of this adventurous book, Gilligan becomes our guide on a journey that takes us through novels and dreams, ancient legends and contemporary research, to an illumination of modern couples in crisis. She shows us how, although the liberation movements of the twentieth century have challenged old patriarchal structures, the underlying patterns remain: the early channeling of boys into “masculinity,” the double consciousness of girls in adolescence, the silences between men and women, the split between our social and inner selves. In the haunting love story of Psyche and Cupid, Gilligan discovers a crucial tale of resistance—letting us see how a path leading toward tragedy can be turned into a road leading to pleasure.

Open, accessible, and rich with emotion, the book rings with the voices of girls and boys, mothers, fathers, and lovers. Gilligan draws on Shakespeare’s plays, Freud’s case histories, and the novels of Hawthorne, Proust, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, and Arundhati Roy to illuminate critical points on the map. Her pioneering scholarship, superb writing, revolutionary argument, and stunning conclusion will make The Birth of Pleasure one of the important and enduring books of our time.

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