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.
Called psychology yet drawing on literature from Greek mythology to Shakespeare to Toni Morrison, this book by gender scholar Gilligan considers the path of loveDand pleasureDthrough time. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 02, 2002
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Excerpt from The Birth of Pleasure by Carol M. Gilligan
A Radical Geography of Love
Let it be
Like wild flowers,
Suddenly, an imperative of the field...
For years, without knowing why, I have been drawn to maps of the desert, drawn by descriptions of the winds and the wadi--dry watercourses that suddenly fill with rain. I began following an ancient story about love told in North Africa in the second century, written in the coastal city of Carthage, carried into Europe as the winds carry the desert sand, falling like rain into a tradition whose origins lie in the birth of tragedy, coursing through the centuries like an underground stream. Set in the landscape of tragedy, this story leads to the birth of pleasure.
Maybe love is like rain. Sometimes gentle, sometimes torrential, flooding, eroding, quiet, steady, filling the earth, collecting in hidden springs. When it rains, when we love, new life grows. So that to say, as Moses coming down from Sinai said, that there are two roads, one leading to life and one to death, and therefore choose life, is to say in effect: choose love. But what is the way?
I picked up the ancient road map of love at a time when relationships between women and men were changing. The waves of liberation that swept through American society in the second half of the twentieth century, freeing love from many constraints, set in motion a process of transformation. In a historic convergence, the civil rights movement, which galvanized a moral consensus against enslavement, was followed by the anti-war movement and the women's movement, initiating a conversation about freedom that included freedom from long-standing ideals of manhood and womanhood. For a man to be a man, did he have to be a soldier, or at least prepare himself for war? For a woman to be a woman, did she have to be a mother, or at least prepare herself to raise children? Soldiers and mothers were the sacrificial couple, honored by statues in the park, lauded for their willingness to give their lives to others. The gay liberation movement drew people's attention to men's love for men and women's for women and also men's love for women who were not the objects of their sexual desire and women's love for men who were not their economic protectors. In the 1990s, for the first time since suffrage, women's votes elected the president, more women were gaining an economic foothold, and wealth began shifting into the hands of young men who bypassed the usual channels of advancement. The tension between democracy and patriarchy was out in the open.
Democracy rests on an ideal of equality in which everyone has a voice. Patriarchy, although frequently misinterpreted to mean the oppression of women by men, literally means a hierarchy--a rule of priests--in which the priest, the hieros, is a father. It describes an order of living that elevates fathers, separating fathers from sons (the men from the boys) and placing both sons and women under a father's authority. With the renaissance of women's voices in the late twentieth century, with sons questioning the authority of fathers, especially with respect to war, with the revolution in technology reducing the need for a priesthood by providing direct access to knowledge, the foundations of patriarchy were eroding.