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Venus Envy


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The surprising history of cosmetic surgery-and America's quest for physical perfection-from the turn of the century to the present.

About the Author

Elizabeth Haiken is an assistant professor of history at the University of British Columbia.


Haiken (history,. Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville) tracks the evolution of plastic surgery in America from early attempts during World War I to the numerous varieties of cosmetic surgery available today. The author uses materials from the National Archives of Plastic Surgery and the Jerome Pierce Webster Library of Plastic Surgery as well as popular and medical literature of the times to illustrate the social, ethnic, psychological, and economic concerns that have contributed to the tremendous expansion of cosmetic surgery. Haiken also discusses why plastic surgeons who originally practiced only reconstructive surgery began to include cosmetic surgery in their practices. This well-written volume portrays an interesting example of the intersection between medicine and culture and is recommended for medical history collections in academic or special libraries.‘Tina Neville, Univ. of South Florida at St. Petersburg Lib.

Part history, part cultural/economic analysis, it explains better than anything else I've read what made American society so vulnerable to the seduction of the knife and the tyranny of visual conformity. As the idea of the perfect, ageless body becomes ever more dominant in our culture, it's important that we-especially women-understand how we've got ourselves into this mess. Venus Envy offers readable, perceptive answers. -- Sarah Dunant The Times of London Original, well-researched, and a pleasure to read. It constitutes an astute analysis of the modern commodification of the body and the role of the medical profession in such developments. -- Roy Porter Times Higher Education Supplement An informative, often engaging account of the history of cosmetic surgery in the United States. Parade Magazine [A] very meaty history of plastic surgery. The relevant race and gender issues are thoroughly worked over (one chapter title: 'The Michael Jackson Factor'), and there are enough horror stories about leached silicone and Homely Girl contests to make one permanently swear off the scalpel. Entertainment Weekly This book charts how millions have spent billions to enlarge or shrink body parts. Author Elizabeth Haiken has pitched a big tent. Plastic surgery embraces self-enhancement, prejudice, greed, submission and opportunity. This is about life in a democracy, where (for a price) any boy can be president and any girl can be Miss America. -- Kate Callen San-Diego Union-Tribune Haiken has written a humane, balanced history of cosmetic surgery, drawing with sensitivity and deftness on impressive archival sources, including surgeons' folders on prospective patients... Her book is a first-class exercise in medical history, raising intriguing questions about normalization, ideological manipulation, gender, ethnicity, and the profit motive in medicine. -- Richard Davenport-Hines Nature This is an important book, raising provocative questions about the ubiquity of cosmetic surgery in our culture... I'll certainly draw on its insights when counseling patients considering cosmetic surgery. -- Janet E. Shepherd, M.D. Journal of the American Medical Association An entertaining history and serious analysis of the tensions among professional medicine, entrepreneurial practitioners, and the mutable ideal of beauty that reminds us how unchanging is the American search for self-improvement... If Venus Envy is a history of cosmetic surgery, it is equally a political history of beauty. -- Sharon Lieberman Women's Review of Books

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