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The Anatomy of Disgust

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  152 ratings  ·  15 reviews
William Miller embarks on an alluring journey into the world of disgust, showing how it brings order and meaning to our lives even as it horrifies and revolts us. Our notion of the self, intimately dependent as it is on our response to the excretions and secretions of our bodies, depends on it. Cultural identities have frequent recourse to its boundary-policing powers. ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by Harvard University Press (first published 1997)
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Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a fairly weak book. I have a weakness for The Anatomy of (X) books. Not that I have read many of them, but they all point backwards to Burton's wonderfully comprehensive The Anatomy of Melancholy, and imagine that any author pretentious enough to allude to that magisterial work must know what he or she is doing. Like you wouldn't allude to Proust and then just write something like, 'yeah I remembered being a kid and it was ok, some of it was bad and some good, but enough about that silly ...more
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the most important things I read in 2017.

I really love this book, but before I talk about why, I must air the thing about it that irritated me the most: it consistently misuses the term "fornicate," as when Miller asserts that "the fact that animals fornicate works to undo our self-deception regarding the transcendence of the sex act" (49).

NO! Fornicate is not just a polite substitution for the OTHER f word referring to sexual intercourse--that would be copulate. Fornicate is a
Patrick Nichols
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Few books have shaken up my world-view as casually as this one did. Brilliant, cunning look at the most important emotion you've never thought twice about before. Full of humor, Miller, by slow steps, leads you from an amusing essay about a neglected passion, to a shocking revelation of why humanity has failed, after all this time, to achieve utopia.
A big thanks to everyone who offered such thoughtful suggestions for additions to my Disgust Bibliography! It's now at over 60 works, most of them book-length, so I'd better get reading. (For those just joining us, I'm doing a long-term project on the literary treatment(s) of disgust, and if you have anything to add to the ever-growing list, I'd be delighted to hear about it.)

In the spirit of getting this show on the road, I'm finally writing up my thoughts on William Ian Miller's 1997 The
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
love involves a notable and non-trivial suspension of some, if not all, rules of disgust
Disgust rules mark the boundaries of self; the relaxing of them marks privilege, intimacy, duty and caring... involving us in the pleasure that attends the breach of prohibitions.

wine: there are no strong norms that tell us to be loyal to wines nor are we in the habit of getting pleasure out of seducing wine, the very idea being absurd. The pleasure of wine is mostly in the physical pleasure of drinking,
David Becker
Jan 23, 2013 rated it liked it
A look at a rather fascinating topic -- what disgusts us, why and how -- that unfortunately tends to bog down in the author's academic, multidisciplinary approach. He's especially fond of relating ideas to Shakespearean and earlier literary passages, which makes it even more of a slog for those of us whose comp lit credentials aren't equal to the author's. When he relates concepts to contemporary, real-world phenomenon, however, he can be quite compelling.

To whit, my two favorite take-aways:

Brenda Pío Pío
This book changed my view on life and human interactions. Disgust plays a much more significant role in our lives than we are able to admit or even realize.
Adrienne Kiser
Nov 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was certainly an interesting book! I've never really given any thought to the idea of disgust before (other than thoughts along the line of "oh my god what did I just step in"), so I was fascinated to read the potential relationships between disgust, class structure, morality, feelings of superiority, and sexuality.

I've noticed that I seem to have a much different concept of what is disgusting than that of my peers (nobody wants to look at the pictures of my recently excised tumor, for
Jul 27, 2008 rated it liked it
You wouldn't be surprised by how interesting a subject disgust makes. There are many kinds of disgust out there, and Miller goes ahead and finds them all, including types I've experienced without ever calling the emotion by its name.

I'm glad he errs on the side of prudishness. You won't find this a shocking or prurient book. It is an intellectual piece. There is a lot of quoting and referring to Freud, who spent an uncomfortably weird amount of his life thinking about the subject. Both he and
Gretchen Rubin
I decided that "disgust" was something I need to learn more about, for my study of the senses. Interesting, and not as disgusting as I'd feared.
Sam Eccleston
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece- penetrating insight and razor sharp analysis; convincing and enlightening throughout.
Megan McInnis
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
One of the most precise, informed, and eloquent books I've read on any subject. With great respect for the reader's sensibilities, the author examines unflinchingly and unprejudicially this peculiarly human emotion, carefully distinguishing it from neighbor emotions such as horror and contempt. He draws from and criticizes the ideas of Darwin, Freud, Orwell, and others, and uses evocative, sometimes shocking illustrations from such sources as Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Swift, and Dickens to ...more
Dustin Brauer
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read. If you don't understand disgust, you don't understand yourself or your friends. I mean, just look at the stuff you are reading!

After I die I may ask god for a redo as William Ian miller. He seems creative and intelligent in a way few others are.
Oct 01, 2007 rated it liked it
really interesting, sometimes the observations were a little obvious.
re negative emotions). Cool book
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