Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears 2019-06-18T01:43:33+00:00
Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears

A natural and cultural history of crying probes this phenomenon from every angle.

A  history of what philosophers, poets, scholars, scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists have said about tears, tracing the changing meaning of tears throughout the years and across the continents.

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About the Book

In this wide-ranging and provocative study, Tom Lutz looks at the ways people have understood weeping from the earliest known representations of tears in the fourteenth century B.C. to the tears found in today’s films. Drawing on works of literature, philosophy, art, and science from the writings of Plato and Darwin to the paintings of Picasso to modern medical journals, he unearths the multiple meanings and uses of tears.

A natural and cultural history of crying probes this phenomenon from every angle, using the work of philosophers, poets, scholars, scientists, anthropologists, and sociologists to trace the changing meaning of tears throughout the years.

Series: Nonfiction
Genres: Cultural History, Neurophysiology, Psychology, Sociology
Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
Publication Year: 1999
Format: Hardcover
Length: 352 pages
ASIN: 0393047563
ISBN: 9780393047561
"Observing that the act of weeping is exclusively human, though its interpretation is by no means universal, Lutz (American Nervousness, 1903) offers a fascinating, multi-disciplinary study of tears. With a fluid style and an astonishingly vast reach encompassing history, literature, the arts and the social sciences. Lutz explores how crying has been portrayed and perceived throughout history. In a dense but essential section, he examines the physiology of tears and cites theorists, Darwin among them, who considered crying a physical, muscular act. Of course, tears are more commonly viewed as expressing "a surplus of feeling over thinking," whether of sorrow, happiness, pain, relief, pride, empathy, catharsis, deception (as in crocodile tears) or any combination of these emotions. Lutz asks not only why we cry, but why we stop crying and how we react to another person's tears. His examination of gender stereotypes and the traditional division of emotional "labor" in our society, according to which women cry and men restrain themselves, is especially provocative. Turning to pop culture, Lutz comments on how contemporary American gender-typing has shifted in books, movies and real life, noting two iconic images: Jacqueline Kennedy's stoic reserve at her husband's funeral and Michael Jordan's open sobbing at a championship victory. This accomplished work is a rich treat for anyone intrigued by emotional displays."
"Lutz (English, Univ. of Iowa; American Nervousness, 1903) explores the fluid meanings of crying. Much in the spirit of Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses (LJ 3/1/91), Lutz looks at crying from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, politics, and literature, tracing the shifting history of our understanding. His treatment is accessible and a pleasure to read. If the book is sometimes cavalier with peripheral facts and does not footnote sources, it is nevertheless a valuable contribution to cultural history."
"...a kaleidoscopic feast ... of creative thought and outpourings of the soul on the subject of human emotion."
"An exceptionally fine, interdisciplinary study that uses physiology, individual and social psychology, literature, cultural history, and other disciplines to help us understand in depth the most basic expression of human sorrow. This original, well-researched, highly informative, engaging, and otherwise beautifully written work, which unmistakably is one of the decades best on the emotional life, goes a very long way towards redressing that imbalance."
"A clear-eyed look at the freighted meanings of teary eyes, Lutz's excursion into lacrimation insightfully grapples with the fundamentally ineffable aspects of crying. Why do we cry, indeed? The newborn baby bawls for months, and pediatricians and parents still don't know why. Is crying a catharsis of emotions? A sincere or manipulative expression of one's emotional state, whether joyful or mournful? Lutz wagers that convincing answers will be found not in physiology or psychology--though he presents chapters on each--but in artistic representations of crying. The spread of his examples certainly moves his text along. From Achilles weeping over the dead Patroklos to today's teens returning repeatedly to wail over the movie Titanic, Lutz agilely handles tearjerkers through the ages and the ambiguous messages the fictional weepers send. Is Achilles just sad or mad with revenge? Lutz further delves into the varied cultural contexts of crying, underscoring that such a simple behavior is far from a simple constituent of human nature. An affable, stimulating essay."
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