STEEL CHAIR TO THE HEAD: The Pleasure and Pain of Professional Wrestling

Sammond, Author, Nicholas Sammond, Editor, Nicholas Sammond, Editor . Duke Univ. $23.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8223-3438-5

Why do millions of pro wrestling fans spend their Saturday nights watching well-oiled, muscled and costumed men performing in a well-rehearsed stage play in which the winner is decided days earlier? What attracts devotees to this sport? Editor Sammond and a host of academics answer these and many other questions, explaining what they think really goes on inside and outside that ring (for Sammond, professional wrestling resembles burlesque more than sport). The writers, including a professor who wrestled under the name Professor Oral Payne, examine diverse topics: wrestling as masculine melodrama, female wrestling and its fans, the finances of the World Wrestling Federation and more. In a now famous essay, the late cultural critic Roland Barthes contends that the wrestlers are like good and evil gods battling to achieve a form of justice fans can understand. Of course, the writers take the sport much too seriously, exalting it as a cultural phenomenon whose mysteries can be uncovered by using the right academic jargon ("flesh—far from being the seed of meaning from which springs the signifying force of the wrestler, or the match, or wrestling itself—is but a node in a circuit of signification"). Regrettably, such language will limit this collection's audience. 31 b&w photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/06/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 384 pages - 978-0-8223-3403-3
Open Ebook - 380 pages - 978-0-8223-8682-7
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