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The Evolution of Allure: Sexual Selection from the Medici Venus to the Incredible Hulk cover
  • ISBN: 9780262082440
  • ISBN10: 0262082446

The Evolution of Allure: Sexual Selection from the Medici Venus to the Incredible Hulk

by Hersey, George

  • List Price: $45.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publish date: 01/01/2002
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The beauty of the human body has long fascinated art historian George Hersey. In The Evolution of Allure this interest takes a novel turn: for the first time, Hersey brings together modern Darwinian theories of sexual selection (male competition, attractor manipulation, and the like) with art history. By channeling a general preference for normative proportions, he argues, art has shaped Western society's sexual choices and reproductive goals while also giving rise to normative body types that link physiological drives to aesthetic impulses. From the Greek Venus Pudica (a form and pose most familiar in the Medici Venus), to any number of subsequent portraits, to the phone-sex goddesses of D-Cup Superstars, Hersey's lively, erotically charged text shows how Western art and popular culture exploit the attractors (the cosmetics, clothes, and ornament that showcase the body) with which people make themselves more alluring or "selectable" to potential mates. He discusses the mathematical mapping of the selectable body itself and the formulas set forth by the Greek sculptor Polykleitos that have been preserved, through Vitruvius, Leonardo, Durer, and others, down to the present. Victorian teachings wrapped these canons in Aryan racial theories about sexual selectability, and this in turn had its influence on early modern physical anthropology. Chapters on Francis Galton, Cesare Lombroso, Max Nordau, W. H. Sheldon's Infamous "posture pictures", and the Nazi theorist Paul Schultze-Naumburg deal with the fear of biological decadence that certain art (by Rembrandt, Rodin, Whistler) was thought to encourage. Hersey concludes with an excursus on the current hyperdevelopment of bodily attractors, asexemplified in the likes of body builders, Batman, and the Incredible Hulk.
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