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A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

Cover of A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind
A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved.
Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a feminist. Her lively, lucid essays in A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women begin to make some sense of those plural perspectives.

Divided into three parts, the first section, "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women," investigates the perceptual and gender biases that affect how we judge art, literature, and the world in general. Among the legendary figures considered are Picasso, De Kooning, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeoisie, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Guerrilla Girls, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

The second part, "The Delusions of Certainty," is about the age-old mind/body problem that has haunted Western philosophy since the Greeks. Hustvedt explains the relationship between the mental and the physical realms, showing what lies beyond the argument—desire, belief, and the imagination.

The final section, "What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition," discusses neurological disorders and the mysteries of hysteria. Drawing on research in sociology, neurobiology, history, genetics, statistics, psychology, and psychiatry, this section also contains a profound and powerful consideration of suicide.

There has been much talk about building a beautiful bridge across the chasm that separates the sciences and the humanities. At the moment, we have only a wobbly walkway, but Hustvedt is encouraged by the travelers making their way across it in both directions. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is an insightful account of the journeys back and forth.
A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved.
Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a feminist. Her lively, lucid essays in A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women begin to make some sense of those plural perspectives.

Divided into three parts, the first section, "A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women," investigates the perceptual and gender biases that affect how we judge art, literature, and the world in general. Among the legendary figures considered are Picasso, De Kooning, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeoisie, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Guerrilla Girls, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

The second part, "The Delusions of Certainty," is about the age-old mind/body problem that has haunted Western philosophy since the Greeks. Hustvedt explains the relationship between the mental and the physical realms, showing what lies beyond the argument—desire, belief, and the imagination.

The final section, "What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition," discusses neurological disorders and the mysteries of hysteria. Drawing on research in sociology, neurobiology, history, genetics, statistics, psychology, and psychiatry, this section also contains a profound and powerful consideration of suicide.

There has been much talk about building a beautiful bridge across the chasm that separates the sciences and the humanities. At the moment, we have only a wobbly walkway, but Hustvedt is encouraged by the travelers making their way across it in both directions. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is an insightful account of the journeys back and forth.
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About the Author-
  • Siri Hustvedt was born in 1955 in Northfield, Minnesota. She has a PhD from Columbia University in English literature and is the internationally acclaimed author of six novels: The Blazing World, The Sorrows of an American, What I Loved, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, Blindfold, and The Summer Without Men, as well as a growing body of nonfiction including, A Plea for Eros and Mysteries of the Rectangle, and an interdisciplinary investigation of the body and mind in The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. She has given lectures on artists and theories of art at the Prado, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the novelist Paul Auster.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 26, 2016
    In this erudite collection, novelist Hustvedt (The Blazing World) explores philosophical questions central to the humanities using research from other disciplines, such as biology, feminist theory, and neuroscience. The questions relate to the self, epistemology, and art and literature, among other things. In the middle portion of the book, in an essay that ought to become canonical, Hustvedt examines the problematic underpinnings of current scientific fads such as evolutionary psychology and computational theory of mind. Her lengthy exercise in phenomenology provides a dense, succinct overview of the mind/body problem, which “has haunted Western philosophy since the Greeks.” The questions that preoccupy Hustvedt are the questions of a novelist, but they take consciousness itself as their subject: Where do ideas come from? How do stories get created? What is reflective self-consciousness, and how is it formed? What role do imagination, emotion, memory, and the unconscious play in this thing we call mind? The book conveys the wide range of Hustvedt’s reading as she focuses on the interstices between people; between disciplines; and between concepts such as art and science, truth and fiction, feeling and perception. The research is sound and the scholarship engaging, and the exacting prose turns humorous and almost warm when Hustvedt incorporates her personal reflections, exhibiting, as she says of the artist Louise Bourgeois, “a quick mind, interested above all in its own contents.”

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from October 1, 2016
    What are we? That question informs the authors fertile inquiry into mind, brain, and imagination.Taking the perspective of a perpetual outsider who looks in on several disciplines, Hustvedt (Psychiatry/Weill Medical School; The Blazing World, 2014, etc.) gathers recent essays and talks on the intellectual topics that have long occupied her: art and perception, the mind/body conundrum, madness, consciousness, memory, and empathy. She organizes these pieces into three sections: A Woman Looking at Men Looking At Women, which considers the works of Picasso, Koons, and Louise Bourgeois; an exhibition of Robert Mapplethorpe photographs curated by filmmaker Pedro Almodvar; Wim Wenders homage to choreographer Pina Bausch; and the authors experience teaching writing to mental patients and undergoing psychoanalysis herself. The second and third sections, Delusions of Certainty and What Are We? consider more directly issues of mind and consciousness: What is a person, a self? Is there a self? What is a mind? Is a mind different from a brain? Hustvedt feels decidedly unsatisfied by the results of fMRI investigations that map brain activity during such events as reading or looking at art. That research, she maintains, reflects a simplistic correspondence between a psychological stateand its neural correlates, without much thought about further meanings or the philosophical issues involved. Nor does she have patience for the assertions of neo-DarwinistsHarvard psychologist Steven Pinker comes in for repeated criticismwho justify why things are the way they are by privileging nature over nurture and insisting that certain traits (men being better at mathematics than women, for example) are rooted in biology. Hustvedt draws uponand presents with sharp claritya prodigious number of sources, including Kierkegaard (whom she first read when she was 15), William James, Kant, George Lakoff (for his investigation of metaphors), physicist Niels Bohr, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, and 17th-century scientist Margaret Cavendish, an adamant materialist who took issue with Descartes mind/body dualism, as does Hustvedt.A wide-ranging, irreverent, and absorbing meditation on thinking, knowing, and being.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2016
    A celebrated novelist most recently of "The Blazing Word", a "New York Times" Notable Book that was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, Hustvedt here explores in nonfiction topics she often explores in fiction, e.g., art, feminism, neuroscience, and how we perceive the world. The eponymous first part of this three-part volume of essays considers the perceptual and gender biases that apply as we judge art, literature, and the larger world. The second part, "The Delusions of Certainty," examines the putative split between the mental and the physical, while "What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition" looks at what neurological disorders have to tell us about ourselves.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women
Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind
Siri Hustvedt
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