Laqueur, Thomas W. 1945–
Laqueur, Thomas W. 1945–
(Thomas Walter Laqueur)
PERSONAL: Born September 6, 1945, in Istanbul, Turkey; became U.S. citizen. Education: Swarthmore College, B.A. (with honors), 1967; Princeton University, M.A., 1969, Ph.D., 1973; attended Nuffield College, Oxford, 1971–73.
CAREER: Concord College, Athens, WV, instructor in social sciences, 1968–69; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor of history, 1973–, Dorreen B. Town send Center for the Humanities, director, 1992–95, acting director, 2003–04. Has lectured at the University of Melbourne, 1993, Washington University, 1995, University of Alberta, 1998, Cambridge University, 1999, and Free University of Berlin, 2001. Member of Historical School, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University, 2004.
MEMBER: American Historical Association.
AWARDS, HONORS: Woodrow Wilson fellowship, 1967–68; Princeton University fellowship, 1969–71; Berkeley Institute for International Studies grant and Regents' Junior Faculty fellowship, 1973–76; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, 1976–77, 1990–91; American Council of Learned Societies Training Fellow, 1980–81; Lowe Prize, North American Conference on British Studies, 1983, for best article in the field of British Studies; Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in the humanities, 1983–84; Directeur des Études, École des Hautes Études, 1989; Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, 1990–91; Frehling Visiting Professorship, University of Michigan, 1990; American Academy of Arts and Science fellow, 1999–; Berglund Senior Fellow, National Humanities Center, 2000–01; Open Society Grant, 2002–03; Council for the Humanities fellowship, fall, 2004.
(Editor, with Catherine Gallagher) The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1987.
Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1990.
Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, Zone Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to books, including Hiding in Plain Sight (essays), edited by Wendy Lesser, Mercury House (San Francisco, CA), 1993; The New Cultural History, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1989; and Choreographing History, edited by Susan Foster, University of Indiana Press (Bloomington, IN), 1995. Contributor of articles, essays, and reviews to periodicals, including New Republic, Threepenny Review, Zone, Representations, and American Historical Review. Member of editorial boards of periodicals, including Representations, Sexualities, Daedalus: The Journal of the American Academy, and Social Anthropology.
SIDELIGHTS: The work of historian Thomas W. Laqueur explores historical developments in terms of their social and cultural significance. His first book, Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working Class Culture, 1780–1850, a revision of his doctoral thesis, was hailed as a "highly original, well-written work" and "a model study in the history of education" by a contributor to Choice. In this book, Laqueur argues that the English working classes from 1780 to 1850 established and used Sunday schools to promote their own values, not those the upper classes sought to impose upon them, and to serve their own social needs. David Martin noted in the Times Literary Supplement that Laqueur's view challenges that put forth by E.P. Thompson in his The Making of the English Working Class. Martin, summarizing Laqueur's major points, observed that Laqueur "states his conclusions coolly and cautiously." Martin further pointed out some of the major controversies about the control of Sunday schools, while supporting Laqueur's thesis as a careful analysis. Library Journal contributor Mark R. Yerburgh characterized Religion and Respectability as a "solid contribution to English social history" that should appeal to a larger audience than its specialized title might suggest.
Laqueur's 1990 volume, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, explores the physical function and especially the cultural and political meanings of sex. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, reviewing Making Sex in the New York Review of Books, took issue with Laqueur's argument that politics caused the change in the way the sexes were perceived. Nevertheless, Gould found much to admire in the author's study. "This book," he observed, "has the great virtue, in a genre of academic writing not celebrated for clarity of prose or purpose, of presenting a simple theme with broad and cascading implications." Gould pointed out that some of Laqueur's conclusions remain controversial, but maintained that his argument that new ideas of the body had nothing to do with the liberation of women was "brilliantly documented" and incontrovertible. Gould also highly praised Laqueur's "copious documentation and incisive interpretation of social uses for the one-sex and two-sex models," which in his view are the "richest part" of the book. In the New York Times Book Review, medical anthropologist Melvin Joel Konner praised Laqueur's attempt to explain that ideas about the human body have been heavily influenced by cultural attitudes toward gender. But Konner questioned Laqueur's "attempt to fit the history of ideas onto this anatomical framework." Arguing that Laqueur "makes the facts fit the theory," Konner concluded that the theory is unconvincing.
Laqueur examined changing societal attitudes in Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation. The central topic of his study is a social transformation that the author believes took place around the year 1700. Until this time, Laqueur explains, masturbation was generally regarded as a minor moral offense, but as the eighteenth century progressed it became common to blame masturbation for a variety of serious mental, physical, and societal ills. Solitary Sex is "comprehensive and nuanced," according to Martha Cornog in the Library Journal. Cornog also found this book to be "more exhaustively" researched than others on the subject. The importance of the subject was noted by Claire Scrine in her Journal of Modern History review, in which she stated: "Those who are unconvinced of the centrality of masturbation to modern Western understanding of self and sexuality or of its continued significance in the struggles surrounding liberal individualism would do well to consult Solitary Sex." A reviewer for M2 Best Books concluded that Solitary Sex is "a fascinating, educational read on a subject that is infrequently talked about."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Afterimage, January-February, 2005, review of Solitary Sex: A Cultural History of Masturbation, p. 15.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, August, 2005, John H. Gagnon, review of Solitary Sex, p. 471.
Choice, October, 1977, review of Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working Class Culture, 1780–1850, p. 1100.
English Historical Review, February, 2004, David Stevenson, review of Solitary Sex, p. 221.
Guardian (London, England), July 26, 2003, Ian Sansom, review of Solitary Sex.
History Today, July, 1994, J.A. Sharpe, review of Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud, p. 55; May, 2003, review of Solitary Sex, p. 90.
Journal of Modern History, September, 2005, Claire Scrine, review of Solitary Sex, p. 747.
Journal of Sex Research, August, 2004, review of Solitary Sex, p. 313.
Journal of Social History, fall, 2004, Robert Darby, review of Solitary Sex, p. 205.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Solitary Sex, p. 1825.
Library Journal, October 1, 1976, Mark R. Yerburgh, review of Religion and Respectability, p. 2061; January, 2003, Martha Cornog, review of Solitary Sex, p. 135.
M2 Best Books, April 29, 2003, review of Solitary Sex.
New Republic, February 18, 1991, review of Making Sex, p. 53.
New York Review of Books, June 13, 1991, Stephen Jay Gould, review of Making Sex, p. 11.
New York Times Book Review, December 9, 1990, Melvin Joel Konner, review of Making Sex, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, January 20, 2003, review of Solitary Sex, p. 67.
Spectator, March 22, 2003, James Delingpole, review of Solitary Sex, p. 42.
Tikkun, July-August, 1991, Bonnie Smith, review of Making Sex, p. 72.
Times Literary Supplement, April 29, 1977, David Martin, review of Religion and Respectability, p. 524.