Anatomy of Disgust

ISBN-10: 0674031555
ISBN-13: 9780674031555
Edition: 1997
List price: $23.50 Buy it from $15.17
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Description: William Miller embarks on an alluring journey into the world of disgust, showing how it brings order and meaning to our lives even as it horrifies and revolts us. Our notion of the self, intimately dependent as it is on our response to the  More...

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Book details

List price: $23.50
Copyright year: 1997
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publication date: 10/1/1998
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 330
Size: 6.25" wide x 9.50" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 0.946
Language: English

William Miller embarks on an alluring journey into the world of disgust, showing how it brings order and meaning to our lives even as it horrifies and revolts us. Our notion of the self, intimately dependent as it is on our response to the excretions and secretions of our bodies, depends on it. Cultural identities have frequent recourse to its boundary-policing powers. Love depends on overcoming it, while the pleasure of sex comes in large measure from the titillating violation of disgust prohibitions. Imagine aesthetics without disgust for tastelessness and vulgarity; imagine morality without disgust for evil, hypocrisy, stupidity, and cruelty. Miller details our anxious relation to basic life processes: eating, excreting, fornicating, decaying, and dying. But disgust pushes beyond the flesh to vivify the larger social order with the idiom it commandeers from the sights, smells, tastes, feels, and sounds of fleshly physicality. Disgust and contempt, Miller argues, play crucial political roles in creating and maintaining social hierarchy. Democracy depends less on respect for persons than on an equal distribution of contempt. Disgust, however, signals dangerous division. The high's belief that the low actually smell bad, or are sources of pollution, seriously threatens democracy. Miller argues that disgust is deeply grounded in our ambivalence to life: it distresses us that the fair is so fragile, so easily reduced to foulness, and that the foul may seem more than passing fair in certain slants of light. When we are disgusted, we are attempting to set bounds, to keep chaos at bay. Of course we fail. But, as Miller points out, our failure is hardly an occasion for despair, for disgust also helps to animate the world, and to make it a dangerous, magical, and exciting place.

Prologue
Darwin's Disgust
Disgust and Its Neighbors
Thick, Greasy Life
The Senses
Orifices and Bodily Wastes
Fair Is Foul, and Foul Is Fair
Warriors, Saints, and Delicacy
The Moral Life of Disgust
Mutual Contempt and Democracy
Orwell's Sense of Smell
Notes
Works Cited
Index

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