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Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast

Edited by Merril D. Smith

Boobs. Tits. Hooters. Knockers. Jugs. Breasts. We celebrate them; we revile them. They nourish us; they kill us. And regardless of what we call them, breasts have fascinated us since prehistoric times. This A-to-Z encyclopedia explores the historical magnitude and cultural significance of the breast over time and around the world.

A team of international scholars from various disciplines provides key insights and information about the breast in art, history, fashion, social movements, medicine, sexuality, and more. Entries discuss depictions of breasts on ancient figurines, in Renaissance paintings, and in present-day advertisements. They examine how fashion has emphasized or de-emphasized the breast at various times. They tackle medical issues—such as breast augmentation and breast cancer—and controversies over breastfeeding. The breast as sexual object and even a site of smuggling are also covered. As a whole, the
Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast takes an engaging and accessible look at this notable body part.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 300Size: 7 1/4 x 10 1/4
978-0-7591-2331-1 • Hardback • September 2014 • $89.00 • (£60.00)
978-0-7591-2332-8 • eBook • September 2014 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
Merril D. Smith, PhD, is an independent scholar in National Park, NJ. She is the author or editor of several published works, including Encyclopedia of Rape, Women's Roles in Eighteenth-Century America and Sex and Sexuality in Early America. Smith holds a doctorate from Temple University.


Chronology of Selected Breast Events
Alphabetical List of Entries
Selected Bibliography
About the Editor and Contributors
Independent scholar Smith has edited the work of 44 contributors . . . on the topic of breasts. The 141 signed essays range in length from one to three pages each; most are U.S. centric. Entries such as 'Breast Milk,' 'Eating Disorders,' 'Maidenform,' 'Mammograms' and 'Public Art' explore 'the cultural aspect of this body part and cultural obsession' from 'prehistory to the present' and include suggestions for further reading. While scholarly volumes exist on breast feeding, breast cancer, and the history of the breast, the publisher is correct in asserting this title as being the first related cultural encyclopedia. VERDICT A useful reference source for academic and public library collections, especially those supporting interest or study in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; social sciences; and history.

Library Journal

Adding these books to your library collection may bring a blush to the cataloger’s face, but, all joking aside, here are two volumes that place the two most formidable of body parts, the breast and the penis, in a cultural context. Neither book looks to exhaust its subject but to consider each organ’s role in art, history, medicine, literature, and society.Entries run the gamut of physiology to fashion, fetish to film, La Leche League to locker rooms. The majority of entries in each book are thoughtful, well-researched articles on a specific topic and the significance of the breast or penis to the topic. All are signed and come with see also references and a list of additional resources for further reading. Both books have browsable tables of contents instead of indexes. The volume on the penis contains more medical articles and includes entries on the vagina. Sample entries include Bris, Circle jerk, Plaster casters, and Spanish fly. Some entries in the breast volume feel like filler articles that don’t advance or relate to the subject at all (see Barbie dolls or Red light districts—the latter references breasts only very briefly). There are a few black-and-white photographs and illustrations in each volume—it’s useful to note that the graphic for Penis piercing is a line drawing, not a photograph. Both books treat their subjects seriously and with respect and are suitable reference works for most high-school and public libraries.

Readers of [Playboy] magazine may be forgiven for thinking they know a thing or two about body parts. But with [this] new volume . . . [The] publisher shows there's always more to discover. . . .[W]e're not ashamed to admit we learned quite a bit.

The first of its kind, a timely and much needed contribution to studies of this renowned body part and its cultural significance. . . .the Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast is an essential, empowering resource for anyone interested in understanding the historical magnitude and cultural importance of the breast.
Breast Cancer Consortium

New Jersey independent scholar Merril D. Smith offers a bright view on cultural, medical, social, and historical implications of the female breast. One hundred forty essays from different authors explain historical persons (Anna of Austria, died from breast cancer in 1666), myths (Amazons), social phenomena (pornography, prostitution), medical advances and problems (e.g. hormones), social conditions (hygiene, racism), and bra’s relevance to political disputes. . . .In case of topics, where pictures explain much more than words, black and white images are given (corset, flapper, mammography). All essays are well written, understandable even for non professionals.
Sexuality & Culture

This [is a] lovely and informative coffee table book.

This encyclopedia is an engaging and informative way to realize the myriad impact that the breast has had. Beginning with a four-page chronology of selected breast events (such as Anne of Austria’s 1665 breast cancer surgery), the book then presents nearly 150 alphabetized entries capturing the breast’s significance in art, history, medicine, childcare, pop culture, and other arenas. . . .Serious subjects are treated respectfully: the topic of breast cancer is covered in a thoughtfully composed essay. And, of course, the lighthearted topics will certainly amuse as they evoke images of the Folies Bergère, topless protests, and Barbie Dolls. The large contingent of contributors lends the encyclopedia a broad perspective; overall, the systematic yet scholarly approach to this subject will help the book to engage casual readers and researchers alike.
American Reference Books Annual

This book explores the fascinating dichotomy of the breast and cultural attitudes towards this exciting, nourishing, problematic and marketable body part…. As an overview, and consideration of the cultural impact of the breast, it is thought-provoking and informative and a jumping off point for further study.
Reference Reviews

This unusual encyclopedia focusing on the female breast is scholarly and exhaustive, yet pleasurable to read. It should find its place among one's favorite reference books.
Marilyn Yalom, Stanford University; author of A History of the Breast

Perhaps more than to any other body part, even her genitals, a woman’s sexual and gendered sense of self may be tied to her breasts—a link fostered through social practices, cultural representations, and body politics. This transnational and interdisciplinary volume thoroughly explores the construction of rituals, laws, medical practices, entertainment, and art fixated on these fleshy organs. It is a deftly crafted and comprehensive work, deeply attentive to the breast in social context as well as persistent inequalities of gender, race, sexuality, age, ability, geography, and other markers of human status.
Lisa Jean Moore, Purchase College, State University of New York

Clear writing and engaging topics make for a useful resource wrapped in a fascinating read.

A timeline of breast-related events positions the breast against the backdrop of history.

Each entry is followed by Further Reading; See Also entries connect related subjects across the book.

A resource guide directs readers to interesting websites and movies; a select bibliography encourages further study.

Written by a team of international scholars, the entries draw from a variety of disciplines including anthropology, art, history, literature, politics, psychology, sociology, women’s studies, and more.

Beauty Myth
Breast Anatomy
Folies Bergère
La Leche League
Mother-Infant Bond
Pin-Up Girls
Virgin Mary
Women’s Movement