Friday, February 11, 2011

History, Gender, and Sexuality Roundup

Lisa Hilton, "Mistresses through the ages Prostitute, concubine, mistress, wife: the boundaries are blurred in this study," TLS, February 9, 2011

What is a mistress? Elizabeth Abbott, who has also published A History of Celibacy and held the post of Dean of Women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, offers this definition: “a woman voluntarily or forcibly engaged in a relatively long-term sexual relationship with a man who is usually married to another woman”. Given the persistence of this model across time and cultures, Abbott maintains that “mistressdom”, like celibacy, is therefore an essential means by which to consider sexual relationships outside marriage – “in fact, an institution parallel and complementary to marriage”. Considering the media’s current obsession with love-rat footballers and cheating celebs, “mistressdom” might also be considered a safe bet for a publisher’s list, and Abbott duly provides us with a generally cheerful tumble through adultery down the ages.>>>

Elizabeth Varon, "Women at War," NYT, February 1, 2011

What do women have to do with the origins of the Civil War? Growing up in Virginia in the 1970s, I often heard this answer: nothing.

Much has changed since then. A new generation of scholars has rediscovered the Civil War as a drama in which women, and gender tensions, figure prominently. Thanks to new research into diaries, letters, newspapers and state and local records, we now know that women were on the front lines of the literary and rhetorical war over slavery long before the shooting war began.>>>

Adam Kirsch, "Macho Man: Exodus recast Israel’s founders as swaggering heroes and secured Leon Uris a place on the Jewish bookshelf even though, as a new biography shows, he was a mediocre writer and a troubled person," Tablet, February 1, 2011

Jews take pride in calling themselves “the people of the book,” and while there’s something a little vainglorious about the phrase—all peoples have books, don’t they?—its appeal is easy to understand. For millennia, in the absence of land and power, Jews found a kind of virtual sovereignty in texts, and the history of Judaism from the Babylonian Exile onward could be written as a history of books and writers—the Torah and the Prophets, the Mishna and Gemara, Rashi and Maimonides, down to modern, secular authors like Theodor Herzl and Sholem Aleichem and Primo Levi.

And then there’s Leon Uris.>>>

Carol Tavris, "The new neurosexism," TLS, January 26, 2011

. . . . Today we look back with amusement at the efforts of nineteenth-century scientists to weigh, cut, split or dissect brains in their pursuit of finding the precise anatomical reason for female inferiority. How much more scientific and unbiased we are today, we think, with our PET scans and fMRIs and sophisticated measurements of hormone levels. Today’s scientists would never commit such a methodological faux pas as failing to have a control group or knowing the sex of the brain they are dissecting – would they? Brain scans don’t lie – do they?>>>

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