The Birth of Pleasure

A psychologist's fine-tuned ear and a scholar's penchant for illuminating key ideas with precise literary citations enable Carol Gilligan to trace love's path in The Birth of Pleasure. Her extensive research on children's communications and couples in crisis has revealed a rather disturbing truism: a child's inborn ability to love freely and live authentically gets thoroughly squelched by patriarchal structures. She shows how daughters' voices are systematically quieted, sons are shamed into masculinity, and those who pursue "inappropriate" knowledge or rapacious expressions are punished. At the core of her study lies the timeless myth of Psyche and Cupid, a richly allegorical tale of passion and resistance to patriarchal norms. By meticulously interpreting this triumph, Gilligan challenges the standard "foundational stories" embraced by Western civilization (including the Book of Genesis, Oedipus Tyrannus, and The Orestia). Satisfying excerpts from dozens of authors flow easily alongside Gilligan's dialogues with couples, adolescent girls, and preschool boys. Clearly, her analysis of Anne Frank's diary--all three editions--provides Gilligan's best illustration of one's initiation into patriarchal tunnel vision. She credits many colleagues, students, and seminar and symposium attendees for fleshing out all parts of this lovingly crafted text; but her own ear for truth makes its message resonate. --Liane Thomas