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The Alphabet Versus the Goddess


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Table of Contents

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess Preface
1. Image/Word
2. Hunters/Gatherers
3. Right Brain/Left Brain
4. Males: Death/Females: Life
5. Nonverbal/Verbal
6. Cuneiform/Marduk
7. Hieroglyphs/Isis
8. Aleph/Bet
9. Hebrews/Israelites
10. Abraham/Moses
11. Thera/Matzah
12. Adam/Eve
13. Cadmus/Alpha
14. Sappho/Ganymede
15. Dionysus/Apollo
16. Athens/Sparta
17. Lingam/Yoni
18. Birth/Death
19. Yin/Yang
20. Taoism/Confucianism
21. B.C./A.D.
22. Jesus/Christ
23. Death/Rebirth
24. Patriarchs/Heretics
25. Reason/Madness
26. Illiteracy/Celibacy, 500-1000
27. Muslin Veils/Muslim Words
28. Mystic/Scholastic, 1000-1300
29. Humanist/Egoist, 1300-1500
30. Protestant/Catholic
31. Faith/Hate
32. Sorcery/Science
33. Positive/Negative, 1648-1899
34. Id/Superego, 1900-1945
35. Page/Screen, 1945-2000

About the Author

Leonard Shlain is the author of Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light, and The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. He is the chief of laparoscopic surgery at California Medical Center in San Francisco.


The advantages of a literate society are self-evident, but is there a dark side to language? In this extraordinary book, Shlain, a surgeon and the author of Art and Physics (LJ 9/1/91), argues that when cultures acquire literacy, the brain's left hemisphere dominates the right‘with enormous consequences. Alphabetic writing, Shlain believes, "subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook" at the expense of feminine values. Focusing on Western cultures, Shlain surveys world history and religion to illustrate how alphabet literacy fosters extremes of intolerance. Indeed, a subtheme of the book is that overreliance on the left hemisphere "initially leads a society through a period of demonstrable madness." Such aberrations as group suicide, religious persecution, and witch-hunting are the result of a dominant linear, reductionist, and abstract method of perception. While admitting that "correlation does not prove causality," Shlain presents a forceful case based on a wealth of circumstantial evidence. An absorbing, provocative, and, ironically, highly literate work that should receive considerable review attention; recommended for most public and academic libraries.‘Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Springfield, IL

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