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In Praise of the Whip A Cultural History of Arousal (Translated from German): A Cultural History of Arousal Hardcover – 18 May 2007


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.,.""In Praise of the Whip" remains an intelligent and thoughtful work that shows great understanding of the role of flagellation in religious and sexual contexts. This is a work that escapes from narrow and often prurient readings of flagellatoruy processes that have often dominated academic writing on the subject." -- ""Times Higher Education Supplement""

."..

"The history of arousal that Largier offers is thus very near the heart of the history of being human, that is, the history of being creatures who are both profoundly embodied and inextricably caught up in imagining ourselves capable of transcending mere matter through giving meaning to what we do."-- ""Slate""

.".."In Praise of the Whip" remains an intelligent and thoughtful work that shows great understanding of the role of flagellation in religious and sexual contexts. This is a work that escapes from narrow and often prurient readings of flagellatoruy processes that have often dominated academic writing on the subject."-- ""Times Higher Education Supplement""

.".. "In Praise of the Whip" remains an intelligent and thoughtful work that shows great understanding of the role of flagellation in religious and sexual contexts. This is a work that escapes from narrow and often prurient readings of flagellatoruy processes that have often dominated academic writing on the subject." "Times Higher Education Supplement"

"The history of arousal that Largier offers is thus very near the heart of the history of being human, that is, the history of being creatures who are both profoundly embodied and inextricably caught up in imagining ourselves capable of transcending mere matter through giving meaning to what we do." "Slate"

..". "In Praise of the Whip" remains an intelligent and thoughtful work that shows great understanding of the role of flagellation in religious and sexual contexts. This is a work that escapes from narrow and often prurient readings of flagellatoruy processes that have often dominated academic writing on the subject." "Times Higher Education Supplement"

About the Author

Niklaus Largier is Professor of German Literature and Director of the Religious Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Zeit, Zeitlichkeit, Ewigkeit and Diogenes der Kyniker. He is also the editor of the selected writings of Meister Eckhart.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x970cd108) out of 5 stars 1 review
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x96fa6ed0) out of 5 stars A Ripping History 13 Sept. 2007
By Rob Hardy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
We are all addicted to pleasure in many different forms; why is it that so many of us are addicted to pain? I don't mean pain of loneliness, or pain of heartbreak, or existential pain - I mean the unmetaphoric physical pain of the whip that has been used for centuries as a sacrament, a salutary, or a stimulant. The love of the whip is too strange for simple answers, and scholar Niklaus Largier knows it. He has performed a huge amount of research into many arcane areas to produce _In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal_ (Zone Books; translation from the German by Graham Harman), a big tour-de-force that examines the many aspects of flagellation. Largier has had to treat many erotic aspects of the subject, and his generous quotations from such pornographic classics as _My Secret Life_ and reproductions of illustrations from Sade's _Justine_ are titillating, but that is certainly not the tone of the work. For one thing, it is as objective and academic as a book on this subject could possibly be, although with the many quotations from centuries of works, it is also entertaining. For another thing, Largier has not restricted the history to sexual flagellation. His subject is voluntary whipping (he does not cover punitive whipping), and almost half of his book has to do with religious flagellation, although there is a risk of overlap into the erotic whenever voluntary whipping is adopted even within the church.

I am not into flagellation myself (well, he would say that, wouldn't he?), but if I were, I'd take the sexual kind. The religious kind is just too kinky. A medieval manuscript describes the practices of Dominican nuns at the turn of the fourteenth century, detailing blows from various instruments; despite the title of this book, such tools as birch or thorn branches, nettles, rods, or chains are all mentioned, as well as leather whips with or without knots or sharp metal thongs at the working end. The manuscript says that the nuns whipped and drew blood "... so that the sound of the blows of the whip rang through the entire convent and rose more sweetly than any other melody to the ears of the Lord." The various reasons for doing such a thing were to impress and intimidate the devil, to imitate what Christ went through, to scourge a sinful body to promote the soul, and also to redeem the world from plague. In the fourteenth century, traveling flagellants combined whipping with song and dance numbers, making their own sort of liturgy and services. The church proper rejoiced in its holy men who practiced asceticism, but it fretted that the popular flagellants were becoming an alternative church, and authorities began to legislate the practice out of existence. But Enlightenment thinkers incorporated whipping into their anti-Catholic writings, and it was easy to concentrate on the female sinner who got an absolving administration of the birch from her confessor, or the monk who enjoyed fundamental discipline administered by a pretty nun. In other words, misbehavior by religious people became a staple of pornography, and whipping was a particular part of sexual activity that was emphasized in pornographic stories. Whipping was also promoted for medical reasons, but no matter the medical seriousness of such discussions, the texts tended to get republished and supplemented with "case studies" that Largier says, "enriched their subject with gratuitous erotic details."

Largier's book is written in a serious and academic tone; if you didn't know what a "praxis" was before, you will get examples of the use of this word many times in each chapter. The language is entirely consistent with the academic studiousness throughout the book, but the subject is one that at times cannot but excite laughter and wonder. Indeed, Largier remarks on the work of a 1698 medical treatise, that it shows that the "stimulation of flagellation consists instead in the fact that it is part of the variety of the world in all its richness." That's a perfect reason for an academic treatise on this far-from-trivial topic, and Largier's comprehensive book disperses plenty of such stimulation.
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