The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish

Yale Univ. 2014. 376p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780300152029. $40. FINE ARTS
The phenomenon of Pygmalianism, the fetishizing of inanimate humanlike objects, in modern art and culture is the core theme of this study. In consideration of this topic, Smith (head of doctoral studies, School of Humanities, Royal Coll. of Art, London; editor, Journal of Visual Culture) discusses not only dolls but any category of human forms, including mannequins, sex toys, statues, artificial anatomy, etc. Such objects have played a role in modern art from the late 19th century, especially among the Surrealists and in more recent years in installation art, videos, and even mainstream cinema (e.g., 2007's Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling). The works of some notable 20th-century artists, including Oskar Kokoschka, Marcel Duchamp, and Hans Bellmer, receive special attention. The well-written, readable text is accompanied by just enough illustrations to reinforce the author's analyses. While this is a scholarly study of an interesting topic, readers should understand that sexuality is explicitly discussed.
VERDICT Highly recommended for those interested in modern art and a unique aspect of modern sexology.
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