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Blush: Faces of Shame

Elspeth Probyn
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Elspeth Probyn contends that shame is a powerful resource in rethinking who we are and who we want to be. What shames us says a great deal about our character as individuals and as a society. Blush combines psychology and cultural criticism, sociology and popular science, to present a unique perspective on debates about the ethics and emotion of identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8702-2
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Shame In Love
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    When you get very interested in something, it quickly seems that the whole world is revealed in its light. Falling in love is a good example. As I was writing this book, a phrase echoed in my brain like a pesky tune: “shame in love.” It’s ambiguous; it could refer to the shame that attends being in love or to being in love with shame. Of course, being in love offers endless possibilities for shame. But I’ve also been uneasily in love with the idea of shame. It’s an uneasy affair, because shame is not usually thought of in a...

  5. 1 Doing Shame
    (pp. 1-36)

    Moments of shame: An e-mail arrives from a respected colleague. She’s angry at a newspaper column I’ve written. She writes: “Loyalty? Shame? Irony?” In front of my computer and a hemisphere away from her, I blush. Thoughts of denial flit across my mind but are pushed away by the visceral feeling of having done wrong. What can I say but that I’m sorry? It seems such a paltry word compared with the shame that covers me. And I don’t say it. Or at least not immediately. I waffle in reply about how I shouldn’t think out loud in print.


  6. 2 Shame, Bodies, Places
    (pp. 37-74)

    I’ve moved around a lot in my life. It started early when the army sent my family to Germany. I was about three, and for my first posting we were sent by boat. There’s a photograph of me smiling in a smart new coat. In Germany I went to a kindergarten of which I remember very little. I must have picked up some German, because I remember hearing local women muttering about us as the shameless invading English. We were in fact with the Canadian army, but I imagine those women, still hurting from the war, thought one foreign kid...

  7. 3 The Shamer and the Shamed
    (pp. 75-106)

    I’ve been shamed by feminism—what feminist hasn’t? Sometimes it’s a theory, sometimes it’s a speaker who uses feminist ideas to shame others. One such occurrence happened many years ago when I was a graduate student. A big name came to town, an American who specialized in the reclaiming of supposedly misogynist words. Her talk was a big event, and she packed a very large university auditorium. We had an hour of denunciations of men (not surprising) and also of women she liked to call “painted fembots.” That was pretty normal, especially in those days. But what was strange was...

  8. 4 Ancestral Shame
    (pp. 107-128)

    In this chapter, I take up the idea of ancestral shame to consider how we are related to shame in the past. The term is from Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok’s psychoanalytic work, which locates shame as “‘buried alive’ in one’s ego.”¹ I use it beyond its psychoanalytic frame to explore the effects of shame over generations. Ancestral shame reminds us of how we are forged in many different relations—those of kin but also those of geography and history. These different proximities produce very particular emotional responses and affective identities, which are transgenerational as well as intercultural.

    “It crosses...

  9. 5 Writing Shame
    (pp. 129-162)

    I first began to have sympathy for Charles Darwin when I read about the terrible toll his research and writing seem to have taken on his body. Apparently he went through long bouts of illness during which he continually threw up, had diarrhea, and was forced to take to his bed. He believed in what we now call alternative therapies, especially hydrotherapy, which sometimes worked for him.

    I thought about Darwin when, between waking and thinking, I felt the presence of something dreadfully pressing. Ah yes, the book. And then I retched. This kept happening as I pondered my case....

  10. Notes
    (pp. 163-186)
  11. Index
    (pp. 187-198)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-199)