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234 × 156 mm
232 pages
25 illustrations, 1 in colour
01 Apr 1994
Essays in Art and Culture
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The Symptom of Beauty Francette Pacteau

For a woman in the Western world, there is no escaping beauty. Either she possesses it, or she lacks it. If she lacks it, she may hope to gain it. If she already has it, she will certainly lose it. But what is ‘it’? Not an objective thing, Francette Pacteau tells us, but a generic term for an unspecifiable number of psychological experiences in the mind of the observer. What these experiences are, what causes them, and how they manifest themselves as a notion of beauty is the subject of this book.

Less interested in the contingent object of desire than the fantasy that frames it, Pacteau considers the staging of the aesthetic emotion. Her analysis extends from the Classical ideals of beauty, through Renaissance poetry to the recent formulations of Hollywood. Her book is an ambitious attempt to describe the mise-en-scène of beauty within a particular field of representations – that of the beauty of a woman.

Francette Pacteau is Research Associate in Art History, University of California, Santa Cruz.