Eve: A Biography

Pamela Norris, Author New York University Press $70 (496p) ISBN 978-0-8147-5812-0
According to Norris, the history of sexism can be illuminated through the evolving interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve. Beginning her comparative study with ancient Greek myths, she equates Eve with Pandora, whose curiosity brought evil into the world. Classical writers considered women to be troublemakers: Aristotle was noted for his ""scientific"" theory that the female was an imperfect male. Norris cites chapter and verse from Old and New Testament and apocryphal writings, medieval works and those of more recent writers ranging from Charlotte Bront to Anita Brookner. Twelve color plates of works by such masters as Piero della Francesca and Hieronymus Bosch represent the traditional view of Eve as a seductive beauty tempting Adam to sin. According to Genesis, Eve's punishment was the pain of childbirth and eternal submission to her husband, who is also condemned to labor for his bread. Both were cast out of the Garden of Eden, losing the gift of eternal life. While the early Christian church fathers regarded Eve as ""the Devil's gateway"" and ""the first deserter of the divine law,"" other commentators have given the story a more favorable reading. The fall was a felix culpa (""happy fault""), when the two, led by Eve, first took responsibility for their destiny. Writers continue to be fascinated by Eve, but, Norris warns, the myth of Eve ""was developed to manipulate and control women rather than to console them."" Erudite but eminently accessible, Norris's account of how religious beliefs and cultural forces have affected prevailing views of women is an important addition to the literature of women's studies. Color and b&w illustrations. Agent, Dereck Johns. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-8147-5815-1
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