Read History of the Breast by Marilyn Yalom Online


In this provocative, pioneering, and wholly engrossing cultural history, noted scholar Marilyn Yalom explores twenty-five thousand years of ideas, images, and perceptions of the female breast--in religion, psychology, politics, society, and the arts.Through the centuries, the breast has been laden with hugely powerful and contradictory meanings. There is the "good breast"In this provocative, pioneering, and wholly engrossing cultural history, noted scholar Marilyn Yalom explores twenty-five thousand years of ideas, images, and perceptions of the female breast--in religion, psychology, politics, society, and the arts.Through the centuries, the breast has been laden with hugely powerful and contradictory meanings. There is the "good breast" of reverence and life, the breast that nourishes infants and entire communities, as depicted in ancient idols, fifteenth-century Italian Madonnas, and representations of equality in the French Revolution. Then there is the "bad breast" of Ezekiel's wanton harlots, Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, and the torpedo-breasted dominatrix, symbolizing enticement and aggression. Yalom examines these contradictions--and illuminates the implications behind them.A fascinating, astute, and richly allusive journey from Paleolithic goddesses to modern day feminists, A History of the Breast is full of insight and surprises. As Yalom says, "I intend to make you think about women's breasts as you never have before." In this, she succeeds brilliantly....

Title : History of the Breast
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780345388940
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

History of the Breast Reviews

  • Eric Rasmussen
    2019-05-08 17:23

    First, I must qualify this review. In reading this book I was hoping for something entertaining and engaging, or something that offered interesting anecdotes, historical facts, people, or situations. That is definitely NOT what this book is. It is actually more of a history of the depictions of breasts in poetry, art, and propaganda, and even then, the book is focused at least as much on a feminist analysis of these texts as it is on the presentation of historical facts/stories. It is told largely without any sort of narrative thread in a very academic manner, making this a very dry read.No doubt, some of the insights were interesting, including the different social functions that breasts have served throughout history, but even that, for me, was overshadowed by one other element of this book - the author. I am certainly no feminist scholar, and I am aware that however I present the following thoughts, I could be accused of the patriarchal oppression that this author refers to so frequently. But, the author seemed so negative about every topic she discussed that I was very put off. When societies exalted breast feeding, that was oppressive because women were tied to home and kids. When societies shunned breast feeding, that took away from a woman's motherly experience. When women (or just breasts) were praised in art and music for their beauty, that was condescending. When women were exalted based on maternal and home roles, that was belittling.Don't get me wrong, I understand her point - whatever standard women are held too is undesirable, because it is limiting, even if the standard is something desirable. But I guess I have a hard time believing there was nothing entertaining, humorous, or positive related to the breasts in entirety of human history.The author also strays quite far from her stated purpose of history when she discusses breast cancer and modern art. Also, despite my best efforts to understand feminism, there were some things that made me double-take. Nipple rings are a form of societal bondage? Today's women's struggles are remarkably similar to those of the women in biblical times? I don't think so.So, if you need a resource for a paper, grab this book. I would not recommend this for any type of enjoyment reading.

  • Holly
    2019-05-12 17:22

    this fabulous book should be required reading for anyone who has or is interested in breasts.

  • Melissa
    2019-05-02 16:37

    This is an absolutely *excellent* book, a comprehensive masterpiece of nonfiction that gracefully explores the historical, cultural and political interpretations of the breast and, by extension, womanhood, from the beginning of time until now. Clearly, Marilyn Yalom is a well-researched historian and an engaging storyteller. This is such a good book, I wish I had written it! Chapters of the book cover "The Sacred Breast," "The Erotic Breast," "The Domestic Breast," "The Political Breast," "The Psychological Breast," "The Commercialized Breast," and "The Medical Breast," and more. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in history or women's studies, or anyone who loves learning about the "little details" or "hidden gems" of history. I learned so much from it, and am so glad I read it.Quotes that struck me:1) "Because women have breasts and the potential to provide milk for their young, females have been seen as closer to Nature than their male counterparts." (p. 16)2) Hera and the mythological explanation for the creation of the Milky Way, p. 203) "The lactating breasts of the Virgin Mary and the great goddesses were nothing less than sacred symbols of all that was benign in the universe." (p. 48)4) During the 15th century: "Increasingly, in art and literature, the breast would belong less to the baby, or to the church, and more to men of worldly power who treated it solely as a stimulus to desire." (p. 51)5) "The meaning of the breast in Renaissance high culture was unequivocally erotic." (p. 74)6) Regarding Elizabeth I: "There was to be only one star in the English firmament, shining as queen, king, and mistress all in one. To that effect, she projected an androgynous image. Too much femininity would undermine her authority, too much masculinity would make her appear monstrous." (p. 76)7) Regarding the French Revolution: "In the revolutionary discourse, the pure milk of loving mothers was implicitly compared with the tainted milk of ancien-regime aristocrats, most of whom were raised by wet nurses. This pairing of maternal nursing with republican virtues and wet nursing with royal decadence allowed women a 'patriotic' choice: those who chose to suckle their young could be seen as making a political statement in favor of the new regime." (p. 116)8) Referencing an 1858 speech by Sojourner Truth: "At the close of the meeting, a group of proslavery sympathizers challenged her sexual identity. They sought to prove that she was not a woman ... this charge of imposture, meant to undermine Truth's authenticity ... 'Sojourner told them that her breasts had suckled many a white babe, to the exclusion of her own offspring ... In vindication of her truthfulness, she told them that she would show her breast to the whole congregation; that it was not to her shame that she uncovered her breast before them, but to their shame.'" (p. 124)9) "It took time for the word 'brassiere' to supersede all the other English terms. Vogue magazine first used it in 1907, and the Oxford English Dictionary in 1912." (p. 173-174)10) "If big breasts were the markers of sexuality and fertility, what was left for small-breasted women? Actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Audrey Hepburn ... represented something quite different. They were not symbols of sex, but of upper-class elegance. It was as if they were above the exigencies of the body." (p. 193)11) "According to historians John d'Emilio and Estelle Freedman, American sexuality has changed over the last three and a half centuries from a family-based system in the colonial period, to a romantic-maternal ideology in the nineteenth century, to a commercialized industry in the modern period." (p. 197)12) "The love affair with science that had begun in the eighteenth century was beginning to rival religion as a comprehensive guide to life." (p. 226)13) "The United States and Great Britain, which have some of the world's richest diets, also have the highest breast-cancer rates, whereas countries such as Japan and China, which have low-fat diets, have one-fifth the incidence of white American or British women." (p. 232)14) "the transcendence that can occur when human beings see each other's wounds and caress each other's scars" (p. 257)15) "The more daunting the world becomes with its awesome bureaucracies and endless inventions, the greater the nostalgia for intimacy and basic connections." (p. 277)

  • Korri
    2019-05-07 18:39

    Marilyn Yalom relies heavily on art history and literature to extrapolate the varied meanings of the breast in Europe and North America. The first three chapters are largely chronological and the latter are thematic, exploring breats in politics, psychology, medicine and the commercial realm. The text jumps around specific moments in history--14th century paintings of Maria lactans giving way to the eroticized breast in the 16th century, which was followed by the politicized breast in the 18th century. It is a good source of basic information and feminist interpretation but because of the broad, sweeping nature of the project, it feels as if the historical specificity of the breast is narrowed down to a mere narrative of oppression. Students looking for a first source should check this out as well as look for detailed anthropological, art historical, and other studies.

  • Simone Collins
    2019-05-13 13:45

    Wow! Did you know the Amazons got their name from the Greek words "a" (without) + "mazo" (breast) due to the supposed practice of removing (either through binding at a young age or mutilation) the right breast to make drawing a bow easier???This book is just full of fun little insights.PS: am half way through.

  • Kristinaweena
    2019-05-15 12:23

    This book really had a lot to say about boobs, and was very entertaining and humorous. Good, light summer nonfiction. However I had to skip over a few pages where the author makes a distinction between erotica and porn which is highly annoying to me, that is basically if she doesn't like it, it's porn. Porn is a topic that is relevant to breasts, but she could have approached it differently.

  • Susan
    2019-04-28 20:33

    I wish that humanity-at-large would grow up re: perspective of female bosoms. Appreciated this book's thoughtfulness and humorous touch.

  • Erika RS
    2019-04-30 16:50

    Yalom presents us with an engaging look at the history of the breast. The arrangement is roughly chronological, but she breaks away from the straight chronological presentation to divide the chapters thematically, subsequently exploring the breast as sacred, erotic, domestic, political, psychological, commercial, medicalized, and liberated. To a large degree, the story of the breast is the story of women. Thus, if you've read much along those lines, much of that will be familiar. Even so, I found much that was new to me. The chapter the medicalized breast, which included a history of breast cancer treatments, was educational (and heart wrenching, at times).My main criticism of this book is that it is primarily a history of the western and mostly upper class breast as seen by men. The second and third criticism -- upper class and the male gaze -- are hardly Yalom's fault. In fact, one of her themes throughout the book is how it is only in recent decades that women's voices have been able to openly speak about the breast. Before that men often defined the societal meaning of the breast, just as they defined women. And since much of that definition was through art, paintings and poetry in particular, that vision tended to focuses on upper class women. But I am surprised at the lack of non-western perspective, beyond a couple scattered remarks. Just as it was an "ah hah" moment for my really feeling that attractiveness is socially constructed when I learned that the ideal French medieval breast was small and high, it would have been even more perspective stretching to see views of the breast in cultures I am less familiar with.Overall, this was an engaging read.

  • Becky
    2019-04-23 12:26

    I will start by saying that this is an excellent book. Its authoritative, clear and concise, and a good example of historically mature works being published for the public at-large. It draws from myths, art history, diaries, religious works, newspapers, etc to paint a vivid image of how the “breast’s” role in society has changed over the millennia. I’ve read some reviews that complained that the author drew her own conclusions- that’s what history is. No one ever wrote “I painted the breast this way, to symbolize this.” We have to make our own assumptions sometimes, and I felt that Yalom did a good job of providing both fact and examples to why she drew her conclusions. The first few chapters deal with periods in time, while the later chapters are thematically grouped. I felt that her discussion on feminism, and its large split between being puritanical and free love (for lack of better terms) was interesting. I thought her discourse on pornography was the weakest section of the book. It either needed to be flushed out or abandoned. I really enjoyed (I should say I was horrified by) the medical section. Saying “modern medicine is revolutionary” seems cheap, but when you read a book like this, where only one hundred years ago a mastectomy was a hack saw and a glass of wine, you have a whole new appreciation for the whole industry. Even insurance… Although, another excellent point Yalom makes, most insurance companies won’t cover breast implants after a mastectomy. This book is a much drier read than her other works, however. It is probably going to take an interest in either women’s studies or social history. I would start with her work “A History of the Wife” if I were you, and come back to this one next.

  • Kadi
    2019-05-19 19:29

    Alljärgnevalt ei ole kirjutatud mitte ühtegi sõna raamatu sisu enda kohta. Selle arvustamine on täielikult välistatud, sest esimesest 66 leheküljest kaugemale ma „Rindade ajalugu“ lugenud ei ole ning niimoodi see asi jääbki. Miks küll? Sest Marilyn Yalomi "Rindade ajalugu" Sirje Wimbo tõlkes on õpikunäide sellest, kuidas ühetegi teost ei tohiks iial tõlkida. Ma tahaks loota, et tulevasi tõlke õpetatakse selle teksti näitel ning igaüks, kes leiab selle tarbitava olevat, on elu lõpuni erialase tööta. Lühidalt üteldes: „Rindade ajalugu“ eestikeelne köide on ilmekas näide, et teises keeles loetud teksti (enam-vähem) mõistmine ei tee kellestki veel tõlkijat. Kirjastusel peaks olema häbi, et selline asi trükki jõudis. Siinkohal on mõistlik esile tuua ka mõned näited oma pahameele põhjustest. 1) Tõlkija ei suuda ära otsustada, kuidas võiks üht nime kirjutada ning ühe variandi juures püsimise asemel esineb tekstis läbisegi nii Aristofanes kui Aristophanes. 2) Tõlkija ei suuda ära otsustada, kas võõrsõnu tuleks kursiivkirjas ülejäänud tekstist eristada või mitte. 3) Tõlkija ei suuda ära otsustada, kas ja kuidas tuleks temapoolsed sõnaseletused ning märkused tekstis välja tuua. 4) Tõlkija küüniline võhiklikkus ja poolelt puusalt tõlkimine on peaaegu füüsiliselt valus: Genesise raamat on eesti keeles Moosese raamat, Hosea asemel on maakeeli Hoosea, prohvet Ezekiel on eestikeelses Piiblis Hesekiel, tšehhi usureformaator oli Jan Hus, mitte John Hus ja sellist asja nagu Vanasõnade raamat ei ole olemas Piiblis, vaid on Õpetussõndad. 5) Kohmakad ja koledad laused on lihtsalt halb maitse. Isegi, kui Yalom kirjutas midagi logisevat, võiks tõlkija ning toimetaja seda natuke üritada parandada.

  • Adrienne Kiser
    2019-05-05 15:43

    This book was interesting, but it expanded upon knowledge I already had rather than teaching me anything new. My primary complaint is that when the book hit the modern era (modern relative to the book itself, which was published in 1998) it left anecdotal evidence at the station and hopped right on board a speculation train. The best example I have of this is the author's treatment of nipple rings - take the following quote:". . . the symbolic meaning of the nipple ring draws from both conscious and unconscious motivations. Women with nipple rings speak of 'marking a transition' in their lives or 'creating a new sexual identity' or making their breasts 'more exciting' or simply wanting to distinguish themselves from more conventional folk. Perhaps they also want to signal to prospective partners that they are not breeders or nurses, at least temporarily."Whoa there, partner. I got a nipple piercing in 1999, admittedly a year after this book was initially published but certainly social convention hadn't changed much in the preceding 12 months. The reason behind my own choice to pierce is multifaceted and not really fitting for a book review, but suffice it to say that my choice had absolutely nothing to do with the reasons outlined in the author's conjecture.Essentially: I don't regret reading this, but I probably should have stopped when the author quit making sense.

  • Mary
    2019-05-08 20:49

    An entertaining and informative look at the cultural history of the breast in Western society, from the mother goddess cults to modern commercialization and fetishization. A fascinating portion of the book deals with the use of the breast for political purposes, such as the French Revolution's daringly bare-breasted "Marianne" figure as contrasted by the armored, asexual Britannia of Great Britain or the U.S.'s Grecian-draped Columbia, who was apparently edged out in favor of Uncle Sam and the shapeless Statue of Liberty.This was published in the late 1990s and sadly shows a bit of its age when the author proudly predicts a cure for breast cancer and a greater freedom for women to control their own bodies. We're still waiting for that, unfortunately!Highly recommended for anyone interested in cultural history or women's studies.

  • Charles
    2019-05-13 16:44

    A very interesting and wide-ranging book, covering all sorts of religious, esthetic, political, philosophical, economic, sociological, medical, psychoanalytic, and other understandings of the (female) breast throughout Western history. Because the book was published 12 years ago, the narrative voice is now almost quaint: It's a vision/version of feminism that has been advanced from even in the short time span of the past decade. For instance, the author's dislike of body piercing now sounds not intolerant but merely un-thought-through and old-fashioned. Nonetheless, I learned a lot, and thought in new ways about not just the breast but also a whole host of cultural topics. Oh, and I thanked whatever gods there be that anesthesia was finally invented for surgical patients!

  • John Carter McKnight
    2019-05-06 20:36

    Yalom delivers what the title promises: a (solely Western) cultural history of the female breast from the Neolithic onward. Her final chapters, on the 1970s to mid-90s, are weak: she's clearly more comfortable with the distant past. Her account of the shifting political role of the European breast, from maternal to erotic to political, is outstanding, and this book is an excellent accompaniment to studies of the rise of Modernity and state-driven taxonomic systems generally. Yalom is a gifted, clear, acerbically funny writer: her prose is a real delight, occasioning frequent lols- quite rare for an academic historian.

  • Rixa
    2019-05-23 15:42

    Fascinating history of breasts in Western culture, focusing on six main themes: the religious breast, the erotic breast, the domestic breast, the political breast, the commercialized breast, and the medical breast.

  • Kelli
    2019-04-23 15:41

    Completely facinating

  • Jill
    2019-05-23 20:50

    An unconventional subject for a history book! I highly recommend it. I love the author's writing style.

  • Anna
    2019-05-09 13:31

    It's a thorough book on how breasts have been seen throughout history, and of the interplay art/fashion/ contemporary ideals.

  • alicia blegen
    2019-05-23 18:48

    It's been a while since I've read it, but I learned a lot about the representation of women, patriarchy, and critical methods. And it isn't too heavy, either.

  • Tori
    2019-05-10 19:40

    SO fascintating

  • Aja
    2019-05-24 14:28

    Great resource for the history and cultural meaning of breasts.

  • Erika Mulvenna
    2019-05-17 13:36

    I remeber liking this book, but can't remember much of the specifics - I'd like to re-read it soon.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-05-18 18:51

    trade paper good condition

  • Mirjam Visscher
    2019-04-28 17:29

    Oww, this book is dry, boring and diving way to deep into the subject. I skipped through in about 2 hours and that was exactly enough to give it one star.

  • Bill Young
    2019-05-03 19:51

    interesting initially but switched to cancer and politics

  • Jane
    2019-05-14 17:33

    Good to read right after "Birth". Interesting.

  • Aimee
    2019-05-09 12:27

    Absolutely fascinating read!!!

    2019-04-29 16:24