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Bram Dijkstra

Related: Decadent movement - femmes fatales

Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siecle Culture (1986) - Bram Dijkstra
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Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Culture (1996) - Bram Dijkstra
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Bram Dijkstra is a professor of English literature. He joined the faculty of the University of California, San Diego in 1966, and taught there until he retired and became an emeritus (retired professor who still holds the title) in 2000.

He is the author of seven books on literary and artistic subjects. These include:

but he is probably best known for two books that have escaped the academic world into the world of popular culture:

books which discuss vamp imagery, femmes fatales, and similar threatening images of female sexuality in a number of works of literature and art. In comedian Steve Martin's short novel Shopgirl, Martin's heroine claims that Idols of Perversity is her favourite book. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bram_Dijkstraw [Jan 2006]

Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-De-Siecle Culture (1986) - Bram Dijkstra

Fully illustrated, this volume provides a provocative analysis of the unprecedented eruption of misogyny at the turn of the 20th century in the works of the key artists of the age. --Synopsis, amazon.com

At the turn of the century, an unprecedented attack on women erupted in virtually every aspect of culture: literary, artistic, scientific, and philosophic. Throughout Europe and America, artists and intellectuals banded together to portray women as static and unindividuated beings who functioned solely in a sexual and reproductive capacity, thus formulating many of the anti-feminine platitudes that today still constrain women's potential.

Bram Dijkstra's Idols of Perversity explores the nature and development of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the works of hundreds of writers, artists, and scientists, including Zola, Strindberg, Wedekind, Henry James, Rossetti, Renoir, Moreau, Klimt, Darwin, and Spencer. Dijkstra demonstrates that the most prejudicial aspects of Evolutionary Theory helped to justify this wave of anti-feminine sentiment. The theory claimed that the female of the species could not participate in the great evolutionary process that would guide the intellectual male to his ultimate, predestined role as a disembodied spiritual essence. Darwinists argued that women hindered this process by their willingness to lure men back to a sham paradise of erotic materialism. To protect the male's continued evolution, artists and intellectuals produced a flood of pseudo-scientific tracts, novels, and paintings which warned the world's males of the evils lying beneath the surface elegance of woman's tempting skin.

Reproducing hundreds of pictures from the period and including in-depth discussions of such key works as Dracula and Venus in Furs, this fascinating book not only exposes the crucial links between misogyny then and now, but also connects it to the racism and anti-semitism that led to catastrophic genocidal delusions in the first half of the twentieth century. Crossing the conventional boundaries of art history, sociology, the history of scientific theory, and literary analysis, Dijkstra unveils a startling view of a grim and largely one-sided war on women still being fought today. --Book Description, amazon.com

Index of images

Raptures of Submission: the Shopkeeper's Soul Keeper and the Cult of the Household Nun

  • The Awakening Conscience" (William Holman Hunt, 1853)
  • "Convent Thoughts" (Charles Alston Collins, 1851)
  • "Rosa Mystica" (Edgard Maxence, 1903)

    The Cult of Invalidism; Ophelia and Folly; Dead Ladies and the Fetish of Sleep

  • "The Invalid" (Carl Larsson, 1899)
  • "Ophelia" (Sir John Everett Millais, 1851)
  • "The Death of Albine" (John Collier, ca. 1895)

    The Collapsing Woman: Solitary Vice and Restful Detumescence

  • "Summer Moon" (Frederic, Lord Leighton, ca. 1872)
  • "Sleep" (Arthur B. Davies, ca. 1905)
  • "The Garden of Persphone" (Robert van Vorst Sewell, ca. 1896)

    The Weightless Woman; the Nymph with the Broken Back; and the Mythology of Theraputic Rape

  • "Nature" (Central Panel) (Leon Frderic, 1894)
  • "Snow" (Paul Legrand, ca. 1902)
  • "Phyllis and Demphoon" (John William Waterhouse, 1907)

    Women of Moonlight and Wax; the Mirror of Venus and the Lesbian Glass

  • "Sleeping Earth and Waking Moon" (Evelyn (Pickering) de Morgan, ca. 1900)
  • "The Gates of Dawn" (Herbert Draper, ca. 1900)
  • "The Mirror of Venus" (Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1898)

    Evolution and the Brain:Extinguished Eyes and the Call of the Child; Homosexuality and the Dream of Male Transcendence

  • "Water Snakes" (or "Girlfriends") (Gustav Klimt, ca. 1901)
  • "Seaweed" (Paul Chabas, ca. 1909)
  • "The Wet Cupid" (William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1891)

    Clinging Vines and the Dangers of Degeneration

  • "Venus and Tannhauser" (Laurence Coe, 1896)
  • "The Kelpie" (Thomas Millie Dow, 1895)
  • "The Knight" (Max Slevogt, 1903)

    Poison Flowers; Maenads of the Decadence and the Torrid Wail of the Sirens

  • "The Sea-Maiden" (Herbert Draper, 1894)
  • "Festival of Nature" (Reinhold Max, 1904)
  • "Ulysses and the Sirens" (Otto Greiner, 1902)

    Gynanders and Genetics; Connoisseurs of Bestiality and Serpentine Delights; Leda, Circe, and the Cold Caresses of the Sphinx

  • "The Girls of Sparta" (Emmanuel Croise, ca. 1903
  • "Gorilla" (Emmanuel Fremiet, ca. 1887)
  • "Woman and Bull" (Alfred-Philipe Roll, 1889)

    Metamorphoses of the Vampire; Dracula and His Daughters

  • "The Three Sisters Chronica" central panel (Moritz Bauernfeind, ca. 1908)
  • "The Blood Drinkers" (Joseph-Ferdinand Gueldry, 1898)
  • "Vampire" (Franz Flaum, ca. 1904)

    Gold and the Virgin Whores of Babylon; Judith and Salome: The Priestesses of Man's Severed Head

  • "Post-Mortem Laureatus" (Kimon Loghi, ca. 1896)
  • "The Beast of the Apocalypse" (Erich Erler, ca. 1915)
  • "Danae" (Carl Strathmann, ca. 1905) --http://www.wfu.edu/users/woodaljn/ant260/

    Evil Sisters: The Threat of Female Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Culture (1996) - Bram Dijkstra

    In Evil Sisters Bram Dijkstra, a professor of comparative literature at the University of California, San Diego, has taken on the task of detailing the various threats female sexuality is said to have posed throughout this century. Some of these so-called threats seemed alarming; for example, many leading intellectuals from early in the century believed that women were in pursuit of semen to fulfill their reproductive need. Others blamed war as a female creation. He shows how the link of women to vampires was particularly damaging. An interesting historical look at imagery that crops up in today's society. --Amazon.com

    Beginning with "vamp" Theda Bara's 1915 silent-film debut in A Fool There Was, Dijkstra (Idols of Perversity), writing with passionate feminist scholarship, decodes images of women as predators, destroyers and vultures who deplete civilized males of their creative energies. He unmasks predatory females in Hemingway, H.L. Mencken, Elinor Glyn's bestselling 1907 potboiler Three Weeks, and unravels the sexist assumptions of sociologist Emile Durkheim, sexologist Havelock Ellis and philosopher of love Remy de Gourmont. Shuttling between high and popular culture, Dijkstra argues that antifeminine, racist and imperialist attitudes merge in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned, in Kipling, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, in Jung's psychology of unchanging archetypes, in the social Darwinist teachings of Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner. Finally, he traces a trajectory of fantasies involving men attaining supermale status from Nietzsche to Ezra Pound and Hitler. His conviction that sexist imagery, codified around 1900, still dominates the popular imagination informs this brilliant, often startling study. Dijkstra is professor of American and comparative literature at UC-San Diego. Illustrated., From Publishers Weekly, Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc., via amazon

    Index of images


  • "Sphinx" (William Sergeant Kendall, (1915)

    The Lords of Creation Battle the Vampires of Time

  • Publicity still (Theda Bara, ca. 1916-17)
  • Design for a book cover (Hugo Höppener, ca. 1910)

    Vital Essence and Blighting Mildew: Dimorphic Gender Evolution and the Natural Philosophy of Lust

  • "The Source of Strength" (Arthur Lange, 1909)
  • "The Thinker" (Auguste Rodin, ca. 1885)
  • "Some Bears" (Rolf Armstrong, 1915)

    A Congo Song in the Heart of Darkness: The Vampire-Woman's African Genesis

  • "The Ape" (Alfred Kubin, 1903-1906)
  • "Inferno" (Franz von Stuck, 1908)
  • Cover of Amazing Stories (October, 1949)
  • "Hostile Forces" (Gustav Klimt, 1902)

    The Physiology of Vampirism: The Root of All Evil and the Womb of Production; Seminal Economics and Spermatophagy

  • "Sex and Character" (Alois Kolb, 1903)
  • "Each Night a Dream Visits Us" (Alfred Kubin, ca. 1903)
  • "The Egg" (Alfred Kubin, 1902)

    And Fools They Were: The Biology of Racism and the Iron Law of the Jungle; Love Rituals of the Socialist Vampire

  • "Vanity" (C. Allan Gilbert, [1873-1929])
  • Cover of Look (November 8, 1938)
  • "They have killed my friend" (Unknown, 1914)
  • "Fleeting Life" (August Brömse, ca. 1910)
  • "The Infernal Feminine" (cover of Life, January 19, 1922)
  • Real Vampires: The Sexual Woman and Her Allies: Bolsheviks, Semites, and Eurasians; The Yellow Peril of the Aryan Imagination
  • Cover of Weird Tales (Margaret Brundage, December 1933)
  • Poster for "En Israël" (1899)
  • Anna May Wong
  • Cover of Amazing Stories (Frank R. Paul, September 1927)

    Domesticating The Vampire: Hollywood and Seminal Economy

  • The robot from "Metropolis" (1926)
  • Detail from "The Death of Babylon" (Georges Rochegrosse, ca. 1901)
  • Still from "Manslaughter" (Cecil B. De Mille, 1922)
  • "The Battle over Woman" (Franz von Stuck, 1905)
  • Still from "The Ten Commanments" (Cecil B. De Mille, 1923)

    Rigging the Great Race Against the Beautiful and Damned: The Cultural Genetics of Unclean Women and Emasculate Men

  • Aryan handbill distributed by the "Anti-Communist Federation" (1939) Cover of Best True Fact Detective (July, 1948)

    Dualism Enthroned: Oak Trees and Destroyers; Hitler and the Hammer of Death; Genocide as Gynecide in the Mythology of Popular Culture

  • "Nosferatu" (1922)
  • "Pandora's Box" (1929)
  • "Comradeship" (Josef Thorak, 1937)
  • Cover of Astounding Science Fiction (October 1948)
  • Nazi poster (1943)
  • "Depravity" (Franz von Stuck, 1894)
  • "The Wild Chase" (Franz von Stuck, 1889) --http://www.wfu.edu/users/woodaljn/ant260/

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