Author bio

Thomas W. Laqueur

Thomas W. Laqueur - book author

Thomas W. Laqueur is an American historian, sexologist and writer.
He is the author of Solitary Sex : A Cultural History of Masturbation and Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud as well as many articles and reviews. He is the winner of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's 2007 Distinguished Achievement Award and is Professor of History at the University of California.

Thomas W. Laqueur is the author of books: Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working Class Culture, 1780-1850, The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century, Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, Rethinking Masculinity: Philosophical Explorations in Light of Feminism, Human Rights as Politics and Idolatry


Author books

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Description
01
This is a book about the making and unmaking of sex over the centuries. It tells the astonishing story of sex in the West from the ancients to the moderns in a precise account of developments in reproductive anatomy and physiology. We cannot fail to recognize the players in Thomas Laqueur's story--the human sexual organs and pleasures, food, blood, semen, egg, sperm--but we will be amazed at the plots into which they have been woven by scientists, political activists, literary figures, and theorists of every stripe.

Laqueur begins with the question of why, in the late eighteenth century, woman's orgasm came to be regarded as irrelevant to conception, and he then proceeds to retrace the dramatic changes in Western views of sexual characteristics over two millennia. Along the way, two "masterplots" emerge. In the one-sex story, woman is an imperfect version of man, and her anatomy and physiology are construed accordingly: the vagina is seen as an interior penis, the womb as a scrotum, the ovaries as testicles. The body is thus a representation, not the foundation, of social gender. The second plot tends to dominate post-Enlightenment thinking while the one-sex model is firmly rooted in classical learning. The two-sex story says that the body determines gender differences, that woman is the opposite of man with incommensurably different organs, functions, and feelings. The two plots overlap; neither ever holds a monopoly. Science may establish many new facts, but even so, Laqueur argues, science was only providing a new way of speaking, a rhetoric and not a key to female liberation or to social progress. Making Sex ends with Freud, who denied the neurological evidence to insist that, as a girl becomes a woman, the locus of her sexual pleasure shifts from the clitoris to the vagina; she becomes what culture demands despite, not because of, the body. Turning Freud's famous dictum around, Laqueur posits that destiny is anatomy. Sex, in other words, is an artifice.

This is a powerful story, written with verve and a keen sense of telling detail (be it technically rigorous or scabrously fanciful). Making Sex will stimulate thought, whether argument or surprised agreement, in a wide range of readers.
02
At a time when almost any victimless sexual practice has its public advocates and almost every sexual act is fit for the front page, the easiest, least harmful, and most universal one is embarrassing, discomforting, and genuinely radical when openly acknowledged. Masturbation may be the last taboo. But this is not a holdover from a more benighted age. The ancient world cared little about the subject; it was a backwater of Jewish and Christian teaching about sexuality. In fact, solitary sex as a serious moral issue can be dated with a precision rare in cultural history; Laqueur identifies it with the publication of the anonymous tract Onania in about 1722. Masturbation is a creation of the Enlightenment, of some of its most important figures, and of the most profound changes it unleashed. It is modern. It worried at first not conservatives, but progressives. It was the first truly democratic sexuality that could be of ethical interest for women as much as for men, for boys and girls as much as for their elders.The book's range is vast. It begins with the prehistory of solitary sex in the Bible and ends with third-wave feminism, conceptual artists, and the Web. It explains how and why this humble and once obscure means of sexual gratification became the evil twin -- or the perfect instance -- of the great virtues of modern humanity and commercial society: individual moral autonomy and privacy, creativity and the imagination, abundance and desire.
03
The Greek philosopher Diogenes said that when he died his body should be tossed over the city walls for beasts to scavenge. Why should he or anyone else care what became of his corpse? In The Work of the Dead, acclaimed cultural historian Thomas Laqueur examines why humanity has universally rejected Diogenes’s argument. No culture has been indifferent to mortal remains. Even in our supposedly disenchanted scientific age, the dead body still matters—for individuals, communities, and nations. A remarkably ambitious history, The Work of the Dead offers a compelling and richly detailed account of how and why the living have cared for the dead, from antiquity to the twentieth century.

The book draws on a vast range of sources—from mortuary archaeology, medical tracts, letters, songs, poems, and novels to painting and landscapes in order to recover the work that the dead do for the living: making human communities that connect the past and the future. Laqueur shows how the churchyard became the dominant resting place of the dead during the Middle Ages and why the cemetery largely supplanted it during the modern period. He traces how and why since the nineteenth century we have come to gather the names of the dead on great lists and memorials and why being buried without a name has become so disturbing. And finally, he tells how modern cremation, begun as a fantasy of stripping death of its history, ultimately failed—and how even the ashes of the victims of the Holocaust have been preserved in culture.

A fascinating chronicle of how we shape the dead and are in turn shaped by them, this is a landmark work of cultural history.
05
The body in its cultural context has become a rich topic for interdisciplinary studies. This book brings together theoretically sophisticated and empirically revealing contributions that present the most advanced work in this new field.
06
The past two centuries have witnessed tremendous upheavals in every aspect of Chinese culture and society. At the level of everyday life, some of the most remarkable transformations have occurred in the realm of gender. Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities is a mix of illuminating historical and ethnographic studies of gender from the 1700s to the present.

The essays in this highly creative collection are organized in pairs that alternate in focus between femininity and masculinity, between subjects traditionally associated with feminism (such as family life) and those rarely considered from a gendered point of view (like banditry). The chapters provide a wealth of interesting detail on such varied topics as court cases involving widows and homosexuals; ideal spouses of early-twentieth-century radicals; changing images of prostitutes; the masculinity of qigong masters; sexuality in the era of reform; and the eroticization of minorities. While most of the essays were specifically written for this volume, a few are reprinted as a testament to their enduring value.

Exploring the central role of gender as an organizing principle of Chinese social life, Chinese Femininities/ Chinese Masculinities is an innovative reader that will spark new debate in a wide range of disciplines.
07
The new edition of this popular book is reorganized to present pairs of contrasting views on what it means to be a man in contemporary Western culture. Addressing such issues as sex differences, fatherhood, intimacy, homosexuality, and oppression; the collection also includes new discussions of paternity, pornography, mixed-race marriage, impotence, and violence. Rethinking Masculinity is an excellent text for gender studies, ethics, and social philosophy courses.
08
Michael Ignatieff draws on his extensive experience as a writer and commentator on world affairs to present a penetrating account of the successes, failures, and prospects of the human rights revolution. Since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, this revolution has brought the world moral progress and broken the nation-state's monopoly on the conduct of international affairs. But it has also faced challenges. Ignatieff argues that human rights activists have rightly drawn criticism from Asia, the Islamic world, and within the West itself for being overambitious and unwilling to accept limits. It is now time, he writes, for activists to embrace a more modest agenda and to reestablish the balance between the rights of states and the rights of citizens.


Ignatieff begins by examining the politics of human rights, assessing when it is appropriate to use the fact of human rights abuse to justify intervention in other countries. He then explores the ideas that underpin human rights, warning that human rights must not become an idolatry. In the spirit of Isaiah Berlin, he argues that human rights can command universal assent only if they are designed to protect and enhance the capacity of individuals to lead the lives they wish. By embracing this approach and recognizing that state sovereignty is the best guarantee against chaos, Ignatieff concludes, Western nations will have a better chance of extending the real progress of the past fifty years. Throughout, Ignatieff balances idealism with a sure sense of practical reality earned from his years of travel in zones of war and political turmoil around the globe.


Based on the Tanner Lectures that Ignatieff delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2000, the book includes two chapters by Ignatieff, an introduction by Amy Gutmann, comments by four leading scholars--K. Anthony Appiah, David A. Hollinger, Thomas W. Laqueur, and Diane F. Orentlicher--and a response by Ignatieff.