In this major new book, Mary Hamer offers a new perspective on incest, making a link with the scandal of sexual abuse on the part of priests. She places sexual abuse in the context of the whole social order. Hamer's novel and innovative approach challenges the taboo on clear thinking around the subject of incest. She demonstrates the inherent contradictions in official accounts of the subject, from genetics and anthropology to law.
Drawing on the work of American psychotherapist Judith Herman, she invites readers to focus on the neurological damage caused by traumatic experience, arguing that it is the overwhelming of one person by another that constitutes abuse, and it is this which causes the damage, not the fact of a close relationship.
She brings together, in accessible form, key descriptions of the effects of abuse from analysts Sandor Ferenczi, Estela Welldon and Valerie Sinason
She revisits the two real-life cases of Father Porter from Massachusetts and Sappho Durrell, daughter of the British writer Lawrence Durrell. She also draws on the work of artists and filmmakers to explain the way film and literature have helped to preserve our understanding of abuse and of its place in the world
Films and novels featured: Murmur of the Heart, Art for Teachers of Children, Suddenly Last Summer, Through a Glass Darkly, Lolita, The Bluest Eye, The God of Small Things.
Includes 16 film stills
Mary Hamer is a Fellow of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute at Harvard University. A cultural historian, her previous books include Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (1998), Signs of Cleopatra: History, Politics, Representation (1993), and Writing by Numbers: Trollope's Serial Fiction (1987).
Preface. Acknowledgements. Introduction. Part One: ON KNOWING AND NOT WANTING TO KNOW. Intimacy and pleasure. Mystification. Danger. Louis Malle: Murmur of the Heart. Jennifer Montgomery: Art for Teachers of Children. Sappho Durrell. Father James Porter and Cardinal Law. Sandor Ferenczi and Sigmund Freud. Valerie Sinason and Estela Welldon. Part Two: ON BEING REMINDED. Introduction. Suddenly Last Summer. Through a Glass Darkly. Lolita. The Bluest Eye. The God of Small Things. Conclusion. Notes. Index