anthropology, psychology

Two wonderful books:

A Thrice Told Tale by Margery Wolf
Wolf juxtaposes a fiction story she wrote in the 50s about an experience she had while traveling to do fieldwork with her anthropologist husband, the fieldnotes made about this same incident, and the article she wrote for an anthropological journal about the incident. All to the end of debunking the idea that "postmodernism" in terms of mulitple voices and texts is somehow a new phenomenon. She also points out that it is only those who have had the most power who find multi-vocality to be a new phenomenon, because they've never had to modulate their way of speaking like those with less power. She also questions the postmodern idea that the project of representation should be abandoned. As I write that, I realized I'm overstating the case, and Wolf does this a bit too, but many of her points are valid. The most interesting bits, however, are the fictional story and the article (the field notes are predictably tedious) and even comparing those 2 first-and-last versions is worthwhile.

The Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan
This is a book that I swallowed whole, that I ate up from beginning to end. Gilligan has become a sophisticated writer, and her psychological findings are presented using interesting juxtapositions. The entire book is framed by the myth of Eros and Psyche, the conclusion of which (for those of you who aren't teaching storytelling every year) is the birth of the daughter Pleasure. Gilligan unravels the metaphorical meanings in some familiar and some new way, in order to demonstrate that it's only through seeing each other fully that men and women can create relationships that move beyond the constraints of patriarchal struggles.

While many people have long said that gender bias hurts us all, Gilligan proposes that girls get slammed in middle school and boys get slammed in kindergarten. Boys therefore have few tools to resist their enculturation into stereotypical roles. Girls can resist, and they remember the devastation better because they were older. But Gilligan gives evidence from her research on interactions between 4-5 yr old boys and their fathers that boys are equally devastated by having to hide parts of themselves.

Coming soon, another boring post on the books I'm getting rid of post-dissertation....