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Obsession: A History

We live in an age of obsession. Not only are we hopelessly devoted to our work, strangely addicted to our favorite television shows, and desperately impassioned about our cars, we admire obsession in others: we demand that lovers be infatuated with one another in films, we respond to the passion of single-minded musicians, we cheer on driven athletes. To be obsessive is to be American; to be obsessive is to be modern. But obsession is not only a phenomenon of modern existence: it is a medical category - both a pathology and a goal. Behind this paradox lies a fascinating history, which Lennard J. Davis tells in "Obsession". Beginning with the roots of the disease in demonic possession and its secular successors, Davis traces the evolution of obsessive behavior from a social and religious fact of life into a medical and psychiatric problem. From obsessive aspects of professional specialization to obsessive compulsive disorder and nymphomania, no variety of obsession eludes Davis' graceful analysis.
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About the Author

Lennard J. Davis is professor in the Departments of English, Disability and Human Development, and Medical Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of The Disability Studies Reader, among other books.


"This is an engaging book which I read with considerable - dare I say, obsessive? - enjoyment.... The book is laced with rich examples exemplifying obsessional people and their work." - Christine Purdon, Times Higher Education "Intellectually bold and constantly insightful.... Manages to link Moby-Dick and the TV show Monk." - Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune "Those with a keen interest in (or perhaps an obsession with) obsession and its place in human culture will enjoy Davis's book." - Melinda Wenner, Scientific American Mind "If you should pick up the book expecting an obsessively thorough discourse, you won't be disappointed. But Davis is a fine writer, and he grabs the reader at the outset by confessing his own childhood rituals." - Deanna Isaacs, Chicago Reader "Beautifully written and impeccably - perhaps obsessively - researched: important reading for anyone interested in inescapable fascinations." - Kirkus Reviews "A witty and interesting historical tour of a fascinating subject." - Ian Brooks, Nature"

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