The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History

Author(s): Emma L. E. Rees

Literary theory

From South Park to Kathy Acker, and from Lars Von Trier to Sex and the City, women's sexual organs are demonized. Rees traces the fascinating evolution of this demonization, considering how calling the 'c-word' obscene both legitimates and perpetuates the fractured identities of women globally. Rees demonstrates how writers, artists, and filmmakers contend with the dilemma of the vagina's puzzlingly 'covert visibility'. In our postmodern, porn-obsessed culture, vaginas appear to be everywhere, literally or symbolically but, crucially, they are as silenced as they are objectified. The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History examines the paradox of female genitalia through five fields of artistic expression: literature, film, TV, visual, and performance art. There is a peculiar paradox - unlike any other - regarding female genitalia. Rees focuses on this paradox of what is termed the 'covert visibility' of the vagina and on its monstrous manifestations. That is, what happens when the female body refuses to be pathologized, eroticized, or rendered subordinate to the will or intention of another? Common, and often offensive, slang terms for the vagina can be seen as an attempt to divert attention away from the reality of women's lived sexual experiences such that we don't 'look' at the vagina itself - slang offers a convenient distraction to something so taboo. The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History is an important contribution to the ongoing debate in understanding the feminine identity


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"The broadest survey yet ...lively, thought-provoking, and richly researched." Naomi Wolf, author of Vagina: A New Biography Examines the paradox and taboos of female genitalia through literature and culture.

The broadest survey yet ...lively, thought-provoking, and richly researched. Naomi Wolf, author of Vagina: A New Biography At last! A book on the vagina that I feel privileged to endorse. This careful literary and cultural history explores the vagina primarily as a loaded cultural symbol. It critiques the numerous ways in which the female sexual organs have had deleterious meanings projected onto them by patriarchal society. A magnificent achievement, Rees's study is as insightful in its analysis as it is comprehensive in its historical coverage. Lisa Downing, Professor of French Discourses of Sexuality, University of Birmingham, UK. This really wonderful book on the cultural history of the vagina is scholarly and accessible, entertaining and serious. It is stylish and packed with insight; it will be seized upon and devoured by the new feminists. The Vagina bejazzles. I highly recommend it. Sally R Munt, Professor of Cultural and Gender Studies, University of Sussex "With Vagina, Rees is aiming for something well beyond 'feminism.' To get there, she uses humor, numerous examples, and careful explanation as she moves effortlessly through a variety of historical periods and a wide genre of 'art' to demonstrate her point." -- Judy A. Hayden, Professor of English and Writing and Director of the Women's Studies Program, University of Tampa, USA.

Emma L.E. Rees is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Chester, UK.

1. Revealing the Vagina: Introduction 2. Revealing the Vagina: Antecedents 3.Revealing the Vagina in Literature 4. Revealing the Vagina in Visual Art (1): Judy Chicago 5. Revealing the Vagina in Visual Art (2): Birth's Wide Berth 6. Revealing the Vagina on Film and TV 7. Revealing the Vagina in Performance Art 8. Revealing the Vagina: Conclusion Revealing the Vagina: Bibliography Index

General Fields

  • : 9781623568719
  • : Continuum Publishing Corporation
  • : Continuum Publishing Corporation
  • : July 2013
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Emma L. E. Rees
  • : Hardback
  • : 352