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About the Author

Tom Lutz lives in Los Angeles and Iowa City, where he teaches at the University of Iowa. He is the author of American Nervousness, 1903: A History of Nervous Illness at the Turn of the Century.


Crying from emotion is perhaps the only activity that is uniquely human, yet its meaning is complex, sometimes signifying weakness and deceit and other times sincerity and strength. Lutz (English, Univ. of Iowa; American Nervousness, 1903) explores the fluid meanings of crying. Much in the spirit of Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of the Senses (LJ 3/1/91), Lutz looks at crying from the perspectives of physiology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, politics, and literature, tracing the shifting history of our understanding. His treatment is accessible and a pleasure to read. If the book is sometimes cavalier with peripheral facts and does not footnote sources, it is nevertheless a valuable contribution to cultural history. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/99.]ÄThomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Observing that the act of weeping is exclusively human, though its interpretation is by no means universal, Lutz (American Nervousness, 1903) offers a fascinating, multi-disciplinary study of tears. With a fluid style and an astonishingly vast reachÄencompassing history, literature, the arts and the social sciencesÄLutz explores how crying has been portrayed and perceived throughout history. In a dense but essential section, he examines the physiology of tears and cites theorists, Darwin among them, who considered crying a physical, muscular act. Of course, tears are more commonly viewed as expressing "a surplus of feeling over thinking," whether of sorrow, happiness, pain, relief, pride, empathy, catharsis, deception (as in crocodile tears) or any combination of these emotions. Lutz asks not only why we cry, but why we stop crying and how we react to another person's tears. His examination of gender stereotypes and the traditional division of emotional "labor" in our society, according to which women cry and men restrain themselves, is especially provocative. Turning to pop culture, Lutz comments on how contemporary American gender-typing has shifted in books, movies and real life, noting two iconic images: Jacqueline Kennedy's stoic reserve at her husband's funeral and Michael Jordan's open sobbing at a championship victory. This accomplished work is a rich treat for anyone intrigued by emotional displays. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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