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Description - Making the Body Beautiful by Sander L. Gilman

Nose reconstructions have been common in India for centuries. South Korea, Brazil, and Israel have become international centers for procedures ranging from eyelid restructuring to buttock lifts and tummy tucks. Argentina has the highest rate of silicone implants in the world. Around the globe, aesthetic surgery has become a cultural and medical fixture. Sander Gilman seeks to explain why by presenting the first systematic world history and cultural theory of aesthetic surgery. Touching on subjects as diverse as getting a "nose job" as a sweet-sixteen birthday present and the removal of male breasts in seventh-century Alexandria, Gilman argues that aesthetic surgery has such universal appeal because it helps people to "pass," to be seen as a member of a group with which they want to or need to identify. Gilman begins by addressing basic questions about the history of aesthetic surgery. What surgical procedures have been performed? Which are considered aesthetic and why? Who are the patients? What is the place of aesthetic surgery in modern culture? He then turns his attention to that focus of countless human anxieties: the nose. Gilman discusses how people have reshaped their noses to repair the ravages of war and disease (principally syphilis), to match prevailing ideas of beauty, and to avoid association with negative images of the "Jew," the "Irish," the "Oriental," or the "Black." He examines how we have used aesthetic surgery on almost every conceivable part of the body to try to pass as younger, stronger, thinner, and more erotic. Gilman also explores some of the extremes of surgery as personal transformation, discussing transgender surgery, adult circumcision and foreskin restoration, the enhancement of dueling scars, and even a performance artist who had herself altered to resemble the Mona Lisa. The book draws on an extraordinary range of sources. Gilman is as comfortable discussing Nietzsche, Yeats, and Darwin as he is grisly medical details, Michael Jackson, and Barbra Streisand's decision to keep her own nose. The book contains dozens of arresting images of people before, during, and after surgery. This is a profound, provocative, and engaging study of how humans have sought to change their lives by transforming their bodies.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780691070537
ISBN-10: 0691070539
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 152mm x 21mm)
Pages: 424
Imprint: Princeton University Press
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publish Date: 23-Oct-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - Making the Body Beautiful by Sander L. Gilman

Book Reviews - Making the Body Beautiful by Sander L. Gilman

UK Kirkus Review » Here's a fascinating detailed account of aesthetic surgery since the mid-19th-century - the reconstruction of noses, breast enhancing and buttock-lifting, liposuction, abdominoplasty, 'foreskin reconstruction' (don't ask) and (oh dear, yes) the swopping about of genitals. Fascinating, yes; but not for the squeamish, and as if detailed descriptions of the surgery were not enough, the reader is provided with bloody close-ups of noses built from the skin of the forehead, vaginas invented from the ruins of penises, penises contrived from folds of stomach fat... An excellent present, perhaps, for a squeamish enemy? (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » From rebuilding syphilis-ravaged noses in the 1600s to the current rage for breast sculpting, this is an enlightening consideration of how aesthetic surgery arises from and is shaped by cultural concerns of the age. University of Chicago professor Gilman (The Jew's Body, not reviewed; Smart Jews: The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence, 1996) clearly differentiates aesthetic from other types of plastic surgery: reconstructive, for instance, restores function, while "the name aesthetic surgery seems to be a label for those procedures which society at any given time sees as unnecessary, as non-medical, as a sign of vanity", He identifies the roots of such procedures in the syphilis epidemic of the 15th century. The disease caused the nose to collapse in on the face, so the first nose re-sculptings were devised to repair the obvious marker and stigma of having syphilis. Gilman goes on to look at "The Racial Nose" (Jewish, Irish, Asian, and black): there was a notion of 18th and early 19th century anthropology that Jewish and black noses indicated a "primitive" character. Similarly, he traces changes in the significance ofo the breast; at the turn of this century, large breasts were considered "primitive," small breasts were considered "modern"; only after WWII, he notes, did breast augmentation surgery overtake breast reductions. Gilman also considers how the ideal profile has changed with the ages, and how the treatment of war injuries has influenced aesthetic surgery. Gilman is not trying for a comprehensive survey of the field - rather, he follows certain threads through history with the goal - fully accomplished - of awakening readers' interest. A scholarly, if quirky, look that serves as a history of our notions about the body and the significance of its parts. (Kirkus Reviews)

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