Wednesday, August 04, 2004

if you're not disgusted, you're not paying attention

Yesterday's reference to Brigadier Pudding, now a worth-reading Martha Nussbaum article (source of the quote below) on disgust reminds me that the Pudding content of Gravity's Rainbow reportedly led judges to deny that fabulous novel a Pulitzer Prize way back when.
In the early 20th century, for example, James Joyce's Ulysses was attacked as obscene. Often complaints focused on its frank depiction of a woman's nonmarital sexual desires (in Molly Bloom's famous monologue, combined with ruminations about her menstrual period, deflationary thoughts about the penis, and memories of love). Joyce believed that our disgust with our own bodily functions lay at the root of much social evil -- nationalism, fanaticism, misogyny. Like D.H. Lawrence, he held that a healthy society would be one that came to grips with its own mortal bodily nature. Joyce's novel, of course, is the opposite of disgusting to one who reads it as it asks to be read. It presents the body as an object of many emotions -- desire, humor, tender love, calm acceptance. But one emotion that is conspicuously absent from its invitation to readers is the emotion of disgust....