The Poisoned Embrace: A Brief History of Sexual Pessimism

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9780679427230: The Poisoned Embrace: A Brief History of Sexual Pessimism
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A provocative investigation into the history of sexual pessimism explores the relationship between sex and death in Western theology and distinguishes such archetypes as the Virgin, the Leper, and the Noble Savage.

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About the Author:

Lawrence Osborne is the author of The ForgivenThe Ballad of a Small PlayerHunters in the Dark, and six books of nonfiction. His short story "Volcano" was selected for the Best American Short Stories 2012, and he has written for the New York Times magazine, The New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, ForbesHarper's, and several other publications. He lives in Bangkok.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A vivid but quirky survey of what Osborne (Paris Dreambook, 1991; Ania Malina, 1987) calls ``sexual pessimism''--the association between sexual pleasure and death--which he traces to the Gnostics, the pre-Christian sect that gave creative power to evil and held carnal pleasure in contempt. Osborne offers a series of archetypes that represent sexual pessimism, beginning with the ``Virgin.'' In discussing the Virgin, he offers a learned survey of medieval and ancient theories of female anatomy, and shows his command of medical history--a mastery that comes into play when he considers other archetypes such as the Leper, the Syphilitic, and Don Juan, whose sexual excess was usually attributed to his physical inadequacy. Osborne's chapter on the Witches considers their erotic associations and traces them to the Talmudic tradition, speculating on what need they answered in the society that called them into being and that then destroyed them. The Jew is also an archetype, Osborne says, with a special sexual burden as a predator, as the originator of onanism and homosexuality: an overcivilized neurasthenic who invented psychoanalysis to explain himself. The Noble Savage, here referring to the American Indian, is the very opposite--a representative of an ``apocalyptic counter-culture'' whose sexual practices were considered degenerate even as they represented lost Eden. The Oriental archetype refers to stereotypes relating to harems, the degradation of women, and a taste for violence. Osborne's final archetype is the Androgyne, including hermaphrodites. He concludes with a discussion of sexual optimism, the belief in the therapeutic value of sex--an attitude promoted by psychoanalysis and advocated in secular radical political that deromanticized sexuality and encouraged free love. An assertive, odd, reductive reading of a familiar and complex cultural phenomenon that the Greeks identified as eros and thanatos. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780679754145: Poisoned Embrace: A Brief History of Sexual Pessimism

Featured Edition

ISBN 10:  0679754148 ISBN 13:  9780679754145
Publisher: Vintage, 1994
Softcover

9780747513810: Poisoned Embrace : A Brief History of Sexual Pessimism

Blooms..., 1993
Softcover

9780517197967: Poisoned Embrace

Random..., 1997
Hardcover

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