A compelling, radical, “richly explored” (The New York Times Book Review), and “insightful” (Vanity Fair) 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.
In a trilogy of works brought together in a single volume, Siri Hustvedt demonstrates the striking range and depth of her knowledge in both the humanities and the sciences. Armed with passionate curiosity, a sense of humor, and insights from many disciplines she repeatedly upends received ideas and cultural truisms.
“A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women” (which provided the title of this book) examines particular artworks but also human perception itself, including the biases that influence how we judge art, literature, and the world. Picasso, de Kooning, Louise Bourgeois, Anselm Kiefer, Susan Sontag, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Karl Ove Knausgaard all come under Hustvedt’s intense scrutiny. “The Delusions of Certainty” exposes how the age-old, unresolved mind-body problem has shaped and often distorted and confused contemporary thought in neuroscience, psychiatry, genetics, artificial intelligence, and evolutionary psychology. “What Are We? Lectures on the Human Condition” includes a powerful reading of Kierkegaard, a trenchant analysis of suicide, and penetrating reflections on the mysteries of hysteria, synesthesia, memory and space, and the philosophical dilemmas of fiction.
A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is an “erudite” (Booklist), “wide-ranging, irreverent, and absorbing meditation on thinking, knowing, and being” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).
A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon. When we love a woman we don’t start measuring her limbs. We love with our desires—although everything has been done to try and apply a canon even to love.1
The important thing is first of all to have a real love for the visible world that lies outside ourselves as well as to know the deep secret of what goes on within ourselves. For the visible world in combination with our inner selves provides the realm where we may seek infinitely for the individuality of our own souls.2
Maybe in that earlier phase I was painting the woman in me. Art isn’t a wholly masculine occupation, you know. I’m aware that some critics would take this to be an admission of latent homosexuality. If I painted beautiful women, would that make me a nonhomosexual? I like beautiful women. In the flesh; even the models in magazines. Women irritate me sometimes. I painted that irritation in the “Woman” series. That’s all.3
Siri Hustvedt is the internationally acclaimed author of a book of poems, six novels, four collections of essays, and a work of nonfiction. In 2012 she was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. Her novel The Blazing World was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and won the Lost Angeles Book Prize for Fiction. She has also published numerous papers in scholarly and scientific journals. She has a PhD in English literature from Columbia University and is a Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.