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Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood: Manhood from Prehistory to the Posthuman [Hardcover]

Gary Taylor
2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

23 Nov 2000
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.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (23 Nov 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415927854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415927857
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,796,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'Gary Taylor... explores this forbidden topic with sharp erudition.' - Philip Howard, The Times, January 2001

About the Author

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.

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graduate student concluded, "She's a bit too much woman for me." Yessir. Which is why, although Tori Amos is arguably the sexiest woman on the planet, most of the fans who show up to see her in the flesh ("star-fuckers," as she puts it) are female. Read the first page
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Research shortage inhibits best evidence 9 July 2003
By A Customer
While the material is certainly of interest and invites additional information, like most accounts and reports on this subject. research unavailability is so severe that opinion pieces creep in to bolster the gaps where accounts of facts fail to surface.
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23 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Unique History of Eunuchs 25 Dec 2000
By R. Hardy - Published on
According to Gary Taylor in _Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood_ (Routledge) a castrated man is just what some women would want, and have wanted for centuries. This is bound to sound peculiar to those in the twentieth century raised on Freud, or more recently those who have followed the follies of John and Lorena Bobbitt, but before Freud, castration always meant removal of the testicles, never removal of the penis. It was reproduction that was important then, and the "stones" were what mattered. Now that we have reproduced entirely enough, the "scepter" is more important. Sex for pleasure is now more vital than sex for reproduction.
Eunuchs, just like oxen, were useful. They guarded the harems, for one job, but power in the bedchamber within some societies became legal or military power. A eunuch had no testicles, but had enough genitalia left to play games in the harem. Jesus spoke highly of eunuchs, and Taylor makes the case that he was speaking literally. Augustine, however, insisted that Jesus's words were an allegory to promote priestly celibacy.
Taylor is a Shakespearean scholar (the editor of the Oxford Shakespeare), and in a show of scholarly breadth cites plenty of the Bard, but cites also other Elizabethan playwrights as well as Tori Amos and Christina Aguilera. Funny, provocative, scholarly, and decidedly offbeat, _Castration_ is a witty tour-de-force.
2.0 out of 5 stars A different kind of topic 15 Aug 2013
By Tall Paul - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found it a rather useless book. Didn't catch what it was rellay trying to portray. Not worth bothering with.
38 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a real Eunuch has to say. 2 Aug 2001
By The Real Eunuch - Published on
I have not read this book but I am a real life Eunuch. I had my testicles surgically removed. In an Interview on the author says "Castration does not get rid of the sexual drive, get rid of erections or any amount of sexual activity." WRONG!!! How would he know any way? He is NOT a Eunuch. He has had a vasectomy but that is totally different. I can speak from experience; when a man becomes a eunuch his sex drive drops to absolute zero. I had a very strong sex drive prior to castration but it is now completely gone. The only way for a Eunuch to regain his sex drive is to take some form of testosterone replacement. I have never heard of any real life Eunuch who was not on testosterone replacement therapy that had a sex drive. Don't waste your time on this book; the author obviously didn't do enough, if any research. If you want to learn about Eunuchs then search the web. There are a lot of us out there, and our numbers are growing.
12 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly nonsense 30 Jun 2003
By Martin L. Bring - Published on
If you wish to read something for entertainment's sake, then this book will suffice. Written by an English Professor, this book lacks the sort of critical thought those of us in the science deptartments want for. Purportedly an 'Abbreviated History Of Western Manhood,' it is rather an exercise in academic arcana - an attempt to think of something through its opposite or, in this case, its abuse. One is hardly compelled to reconsider ideas about what manhood means. There is nothing in Taylor's "treatise" to support such nonsense as, "This is a specter that has haunted men for centuries: the fear that manhood will become, or has already become, obsolete, superfluous, ridiculous, at best quaint, at worst disgusting." Really? In whose misandrist manifesto? The concept "Western Man" is, after all, just that - a concept. There is no such unified and homogeneous group and no such "specter" has haunted it for so long. That men should cringe at the word castration is less a mystery than than why women should fear rape. In short, Taylor's analysis of the history and purposes of castration sheds less light on the "cultural construct of masculinity" than on the sadistic sexual abuse and humiliation with which males can be threatened and subjugated. That some of his readers find him witty or funny at times is only because Taylor's treatment of his subject is often sophmoric.

In my view, today's attitudes toward manhood and males are best understood in terms of our lacking moral sympathies toward them. Taylor's book is no exception. We are not a generation influenced by Freud so much as by feminism. Thus, the historical abuse and mutilation of women is a subject deadly serious and pertinent to us while the sexual abuse and humiliation of men is treated like something that never happened - that is, something we've misconstured, or, in Tayor's case, given a fictional reinterpretation, mocked and trivalized. Taylor's ignorant belief (not first person, of course) about the sexual prowess of eunuchs is one case in point. Another case in point is Tayor's view that for most of western history castration was a mark of power and divinity and, as the ultimate abrogation of sexual desire, had wide spread currency among Christian metaphysicians. This is nonsense. Taylor is arguing anecdotally to his own foregone conclusions. He wasn't there to take any polls. No doubt, some Christian cults managed to appropriate practices of sexual mutilation already in place - just as Christian nihilism helped to make slavery seem worthy. This did not, however, make such practices any more agreeable as hardly anyone wanted to suffer either condition themselves. In any case, the spiritualized feelings attained by some Christian monks through self mutilation would have appalled the Greeks - the paragons of western civilization - as it has most men throughout all of human history.

Taylor's book about castration will score a few points for the concept of cultural relativism on a subject that now seems, at best, uncontroversial or, at worst, comic to the immature. Should he chose to write volumes exploring the gamut of humanity's attitudes regarding every other form of sexual nastiness, he will no doubt find endless tolerance to be feted as well. Would he dare?
7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Testimony: "Castration" is a Great Book 3 April 2002
By Mannix - Published on
Gary Taylor's "Castration" is an endlessly fascinating, provocative, and highly entertaining exploration not only of the history of the unkindest cut but of the evolving meaning of manhood from ancient times to the present, and even into the future. Scrupulously scholarly and challenging, the book is nevertheless actually fun to read. Drawing extensively on literature, religion, and psychology, Taylor methodically examines the evolution of castration and its relationship to agriculture, faith, race, gender, and science. I found his analysis of the passage from Matthew's Gospel where Jesus addresses the topic of eunuchs to be especially enlightening. Did Christ really salute self-made eunuchs? Was he really anti-family? This book will not fail to teach you, provoke you, and force you to reconsider your ideas about what manhood means.
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