Form and Content
In this collection of thematically related essays in criticism, Wendy Lesser makes her subject the portrayal of women in works of art created by men. What she hopes will emerge is a deeper understanding of men’s relationship to the feminine, as revealed through art. The context of His Other Half: Men Looking at Women Through Art, as Lesser sees it, is a climate of gender-theory obsession, a climate whose separatist pressures she resists. Specifically, she absolves the artists whom she discusses from the accusation of misogyny, although one of the criteria that had led her to choose these particular artists is their willingness to risk that charge—and, one might add, the willingness of some feminist critics to make it. While Lesser concedes that some male artists may justly be accused of misogyny, a mere exposé of misogyny is not her concern here.
Drawing on the psychoanalytic tradition inaugurated by Sigmund Freud, especially as developed in the work of the British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, Lesser employs as an organizing device the Platonic myth of the divided self. According to this myth, found in Plato’s Symposium, human beings were at an earlier time unified with—shared the body of—another being. The present gender isolation is not a natural condition, and people seek in their relationships with others to reestablish the primal unity that was lost. The myth may allude symbolically to the physical separation from the...
(The entire section is 595 words.)