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A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind

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A compelling and radical collection of essays on art, feminism, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy from prize-winning novelist Siri Hustvedt, the acclaimed author of The Blazing World and What I Loved.

Siri Husvedt has always been fascinated by biology and how human perception works. She is a lover of art, the humanities, and the sciences. She is a novelist and a feminist. Her lively, lucid essays in A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women begin to make some sense of those plural perspectives.

Divided into three parts, the first section, “A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women,” investigates the perceptual and gender biases that affect how we judge art, literature, and the world in general. Among the legendary figures considered are Picasso, De Kooning, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Guerrilla Girls, and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

The second part, “The Delusions of Certainty,” is about the age-old mind/body problem that has haunted Western philosophy since the Greeks. Hustvedt explains the relationship between the mental and the physical realms, showing what lies beyond the argument—desire, belief, and the imagination.

The final section, “What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition,” discusses neurological disorders and the mysteries of hysteria. Drawing on research in sociology, neurobiology, history, genetics, statistics, psychology, and psychiatry, this section also contains a profound and powerful consideration of suicide.

There has been much talk about building a beautiful bridge across the chasm that separates the sciences and the humanities. At the moment, we have only a wobbly walkway, but Hustvedt is encouraged by the travelers making their way across it in both directions. A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is an insightful account of the journeys back and forth.

576 pages, Hardcover

First published December 6, 2016

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About the author

Siri Hustvedt

59 books2,058 followers
Hustvedt was born in Northfield, Minnesota. Her father Lloyd Hustvedt was a professor of Scandinavian literature, and her mother Ester Vegan emigrated from Norway at the age of thirty. She holds a B.A. in history from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University; her thesis on Charles Dickens was entitled Figures of Dust: A Reading of Our Mutual Friend.

Hustvedt has mainly made her name as a novelist, but she has also produced a book of poetry, and has had short stories and essays on various subjects published in (among others) The Art of the Essay, 1999, The Best American Short Stories 1990 and 1991, The Paris Review, Yale Review, and Modern Painters.

Like her husband Paul Auster, Hustvedt employs a use of repetitive themes or symbols throughout her work. Most notably the use of certain types of voyeurism, often linking objects of the dead to characters who are relative strangers to the deceased characters (most notable in various facits in her novels The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl) and the exploration of identity. She has also written essays on art history and theory (see "Essay collections") and painting and painters often appear in her fiction, most notably, perhaps, in her novel, What I Loved.

She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, writer Paul Auster, and their daughter, singer and actress Sophie Auster.

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