PHALLOS: A Symbol and Its History in the Male World by Thorkil Vanggaard

PHALLOS: A Symbol and Its History in the Male World

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dr. Vanggaard, a Danish psychologist at the University of Copenhagen, insists that erotica lies quite outside the province of his book which is concerned with the phallus as a symbol of aggression within masculine culture and (at least among baboons) a symbol of hierarchical rank, dominance and submission. To illustrate the point, Vanggaard looks at certain very special homosexual practices in ancient Sparta, in Greek literature, the ancient Norse sagas -- and his own clinical practice. He comes up with the startling notion that ritual pederasty as practiced by the ancient Dorians was an honorable and socially beneficent practice whereby all sorts of manly qualities -- strength, eloquence, loyalty, generosity -- were symbolically transferred from the older nobleman to his eromenos or boy-lover; a custom which, he suggests, fulfilled deep-seated psychological needs of dominance and submission between boy and man, pupil and teacher, master and apprentice. Alas, with the advent of Christianity the ""genital component"" was lost though the ceremonies of abasement and surrender lingered in the feudal period disguised as investiture and homage between lord and vassal. The way he reads medieval literature, the Arthurian legends and The Song of Roland are really about this sort of manly love. Picking and choosing his examples from a hodgepodge of anthropology, classical literature and ancient history, Vanggaard categorically asserts that the ""homosexual radical"" or fundamental tendency is ""inherent in the nature of all males,"" suggesting that western society has paid dearly for repressing the pederastic practices that were once part of the education of every well brought up boy. Indeed Vanggaard goes further, implying that anxiety neuroses and other ills of modern civilization are the price we pay for not recognizing the healthful benefits of buggery. As a reading of ancient Greek culture and medieval literature Phallos is fanciful. And the psychological verities he enjoins upon us seem a little -- well -- cockamamie.

Pub Date: Dec. 8th, 1972
Publisher: International Universities Press