The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History%E2%80%A8

Emma L E Rees, Author
Emma L. E. Rees. Bloomsbury Academic, $29.95 (352p) ISBN 9781623568719
Paperback - 376 pages - 978-1-62892-212-7
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Analyses of representations of the vagina in art and culture couple with feminist politics in this impassioned tract by University of Chester lecturer Rees. At her most academic, Rees coins the phrases "covert visibility" and "autonomous anatomy," and applies this perspective to four historical motifs, as well as case studies discussed within a loose framework of genre. Examples from literature, film, television, visual and performance art draw from the U.K. and U.S., a range of historical periods, highbrow, experimental, and pop culture alike. South Park and the 70s sexploitation film Chatterbox are discussed alongside Diderot and Kathy Acker. Rees argues that the vagina is "seen and unseen," leading to a fragmented sense of self that perpetuates human rights violations such as female genital mutilation or labiaplasty. The solution to "covert visibility" and its political repercussions lies in artistic representations that make the vagina visible, among other strategies. While occasionally insightful, the book has limited usefulness as an academic survey and agent for change. Rees's political prescriptions, digressions, and lack of rigorous methodology instead render the book an exercise in deductive reasoning. 14 color illus. (Aug.)
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