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Kaner, A. (2015). The Psychology of Beauty: Creation of a Beautiful Self. By Ellen Sinkman. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 2013, xii + 174 pp., $75.00 hardcover, $34.99 paperback.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 63(1):172-176.

(2015). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 63(1):172-176

The Psychology of Beauty: Creation of a Beautiful Self. By Ellen Sinkman. Lanham, MD: Jason Aronson, 2013, xii + 174 pp., $75.00 hardcover, $34.99 paperback.

Review by:
Angelica Kaner

The Psychology of Beauty: Creation of a Beautiful Self is a comprehensive, insightful, and extremely well-integrated exploration of the meanings and uses of beauty both inside and outside the clinical encounter. Ellen Sinkman draws heavily on myth and fable, particularly Ovid's rendering of the classic myth of Pygmalion, to introduce her central idea of a universal and timeless unconscious wish to be transformed into a beautiful being and have the power to create beauty in another. In this myth the sculptor Pygmalion, repulsed by female prostitutes, carves a statue of an ideally beautiful woman, Galatea, who comes to life and becomes his wife, his perfect match. Frances Lang (2012), reviewing Fred Sander's 2010 collection of articles on cloning, a volume including W. S. Gilbert's Pygmalion and Galatea, notes that although this psychologically powerful myth has found its way into visual art, literature, and drama, it has not entered the psychoanalytic canon, as have the stories of Oedipus and Narcissus (p. 202). Sinkman's work accords Pygmalion a central place in this canon.

She begins by detailing the importance of beauty. She describes prehistoric evidence documenting beautification efforts in Neanderthal people; the art of the body artist Orlan and the coutourier Alexander McQueen; archaeology; various social groups that primp, prime, and adorn; psychological research correlating attractiveness with social mobility; and conceptual advances in biology (namely, embodied cognition and neuroplasticity) that “help situate beauty perceptions and concerns within a physiological, emotional, and relationship context….

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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