This daring, intensely personal book challenges both conventional and feminist ideas about beauty by asking us to take pleasure in beauty without shame, and to see and feel the erotic in everyday life. Bringing together her varied experiences as a poet, art historian, bodybuilder, and noted performance artist, Joanna Frueh shows us how to move beyond society's equation of youth with beauty toward an aesthetic for the fully erotic human being.
A lush combination of autobiography, theory, photography, and poetry, this book continues to develop the ideas about the erotic, beauty, older women, sex, and pleasure that Frueh first addressed in Erotic Faculties. Monster/Beauty examines these issues using a provocative, often explicit, set of examples. Frueh admiringly looks at the bodies and mindsets of midlife female bodybuilders, rethinks the vampire, and revises our ideas about traditional models of beauty, such as Aphrodite. Above all, she boldly brings her personal experience into the text, weaving her reflections on female sensuality with contemporary theory.
These linked essays are as much a performance as they are a discussion, breaking down the barriers between the personal and the academic, and the erotic and the intellectual. Frueh writes passionately and beautifully, and the result is a much-needed exploration of beauty myths and taboos.
Photographs by Russell Dudley and Joanna Frueh
1. Aphrodisia and Erotogenesis
2. Hypermuscular Performance
3. The Passionate Wife, the Passionate Daughter
PLEASURE AND PEDAGOGY
4. The Professor's Body
5. Consensual Erotics
6. Exertions of Flesh on Flesh
7. The Primacy of Pleasure: Leisure, Crush, the Dominatrix
8. The Amorous Stepmother: A Pedagogical Experiment
ICONS OF PLEASURE
9. Dressing Aphrodite
10. Blonde Bunny Goddess
11. Border Cowgirl
12. Scarlet Women
13. Sade, My Sweet, My Truffle; or, Giving a Fuck
14. Vampiric Strategies
List of Illustrations
Joanna Frueh is Professor of Art History at the University of Nevada, Reno; author of Erotic Faculties (California, 1996) and Hannah Wilke: A Retrospective (1989); and coeditor of Picturing the Modern Amazon (2000), Feminist Art Criticism: Art, Identity, Action (1994), and Feminist Art Criticism: An Anthology (1991).
"This book is as seductive as the phenomenon that it explores. With courage, love, and joy, Frueh crosses into unexplored terrains of beauty and pleasure, where she finds a grotesquely captivating creature: Monster/Beauty. By illuminating her journey with thoughtful insight and engaging prose, she encourages readers to join her in her quest to articulate fresh ways of thinking about the aesthetic and the erotic and of theorizing the flux of lived experience." —John Alan Farmer, senior editor of Art Journal
"Monster/Beauty is a daringly provocative experiment in personal and erotic writing and an important book for anyone interested in breaking normative codes of beauty, pedagogy, and authorial methodology. In a richly self-revealing text, Frueh proposes nothing less than a Rabellaisian re-ordering of aesthetic embodiments within social relations." —Mira Schor, author of Wet: On Painting, Feminism, and Art Culture
"Giving new meaning to "embodied writing," this book goes farther than any other toward getting the body into the text. Joanna Frueh is a performance artist first-she is also an art historian, a singer, a poet, a bodybuilder, a professor, an academic celebrity of modest fame, but her performances collapse these distinctions. Frueh's intensely personal, intensely physical prose brings an aura of presence to the book that rivals the effect she achieves on stage." —Robyn Warhol, co-editor of Feminisms
"This book is monstrous--full of gorgeous hypermuscular women, step-mothers, and vampires; full of ravishing muscular sex, classroom erotics, splendid aging. It is a performance in which Frueh explores and celebrates her body, its powers and beauties, and those of her friends and lovers." —Alphonso Lingis, author of Excesses, Abuses, and Dangerous Emotions
"A welcome voice in contemporary feminist theory, Frueh's Monster/Beauty reminds us of the pleasures of thinking, teaching and creating in wholly embodied, sensual and passionate acts. Frueh poetically enacts the self as an aesthetic/erotic project, affirming the many different and beautiful selves we can become. It is a joy to read." —Marsha Meskimmon, author of We Weren't Modern Enough: Women Artists and the Limits of German Modernism
"Joanna Frueh is a hero. I sleep better knowing she's out there writing and thinking." —Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours