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Primitive Passions

Men, Women, and the Quest for Ecstasy

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Beginning with early 20th-century figures--among them Carl Jung, Isak Dinesen, and Georgia O'Keeffe--who found in "the primitive" a medium for soul-searching and personal change, Torgovnivk probes how the return to the primitive has signaled a quest to transcend the limitations of the body in a variety of contemporary practices, from genital piercing to New Age rites to the mythopoetic men's movement. Illustrations. 272 pp. Author tour. 10,000 print.

From Publishers Weekly

Feb 02, 1997 – Since the early 20th century, adventurous white European thinkers have pursued primitive places, cultures and states of mind, observes Torgovnick (Going Primitive) in this lucid, freewheeling interdisciplinary study. Like many literary critics who've branched out into anthropology and cultural studies, Torgovnick, the chair of Duke University's English department, brings considerable critical skills to a wide range of cultural texts, tracing a fascination with the primitive from modernist literature to the New Age. The results are scattershot but always illuminating. In the writings of Carl Jung on North Africa, of D.H. Lawrence on New Mexico, Andre Gide on the Congo and ethnographer Bronislaw Malinowski on Melanesia, she highlights a desire for a kinship with nature, for a sense of the self as part of a larger, "oceanic" cosmos, for a fluid interaction with female energies. Aviator Beryl Markham and writer Isak Dinesen, both pioneers in Kenya, on the other hand, viewed Africa through an aestheticizing, aristocratic lens. Unlike male writers who sought to repress the appeal of the primitive, Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico and gorilla scientist Dian Fossey in Africa--among the heroines of this study--displayed a transgressive identification with animal life and the land. In the final section, Torgovnick turns to contemporary primitivism, deconstructing the "idealized, lyrical view" of Native American life presented in films such as Dances with Wolves; treating the craze for body piercing as taboo-violating and ritualistic; and casting a skeptical eye on New Age spirituality and the mythopoeic men's movement. What we seek in other cultures, she compellingly argues, we can, with some effort, find in Western traditions and practices. Photos.
Primitive Passions
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  • $4.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Feb 11, 1997
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 268 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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