Boxing: A Cultural History

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Kasia Boddy




Kasia Boddy’s book, Boxing: A Cultural History is a great read. Here’s some information on it, and a bit about the author. I think ou’ll enjoy this one.





Boxing is one of the oldest and most exciting of sports: its bruising and bloody confrontations have permeated Western culture since 3000 B.C. During that period, there has hardly been a time in which young men, and sometimes women, did not raise their gloved or naked fists to one other.


Throughout this history, potters, sculptors, painters, poets, novelists, cartoonists, song-writers, photographers and film-makers have been there to record and make sense of it all. In her encyclopaedic investigation of the shifting social, political and cultural resonances of this most visceral of sports, Kasia Boddy throws new light on an elemental struggle for dominance whose weapons are nothing more than fists. From Daniel Mendoza to Mike Tyson, boxers have embodied and enacted our anxieties about race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Looking afresh at everything from neo-classical sculpture to hip-hop lyrics, Boddy explores the way in which the history of boxing has intersected with the history of mass media, and sheds new light on the work of such diverse figures as Henry Fielding and Spike Lee, Charlie Chaplin and Philip Roth, James Joyce and Mae West, Bertolt Brecht and Charles Dickens. This all-encompassing study tells us just how and why boxing has mattered so much to so many.






Kasia Boddy teaches in the English Department at University College London and has published widely on British and American literature and film.





‘A treasure trove for boxing historians and aficionados . . . At nearly five hundred densely packed pages . . . Boxing: A Cultural History would seem to include everything that has ever been written, depicted or in any way recorded about boxing. . . . To read Boddy’s book is to confront dozens – hundreds? – of inspired mini-essays.’

– Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books


‘a serious yet entertaining study, packed with obscure facts and accompanied by a huge selection of marvellous photos and illustrations’. – Marcel Berlins, The Guardian


‘The merit of Kasia Boddy’s meticulously researched and deeply intelligent examination of boxing through the ages is that it refuses to take the pop historian’s route of lazy simplification. The political and moral ambiguity of the fights that have played such a seminal role in shaping human consciousness are chronicled in all their rich and equivocal detail . . . her volume is one of the most intelligent sporting books of recent times’ – The Times


‘Boddy seldom misses a trick; her choices of what to include are invariably spot-on. Her subject is the interface between culture in its broadest sense and boxing, and the breadth and rigour of her research is astonishing . . . she is just as sure-footed on the intricacies of boxing as in their depiction in literature, painting, film and television. She is clearly in love with the sport.’ – Financial Times


‘As Kasia Boddy shows in this epic study, packed with fine illustrations, the link between art and boxing stretches right back to the late Bronze Age . . . if one author deserves real praise for stamina, it is Kasia Boddy. The research she has put into this book, combined with her awesome understanding of Western culture, is staggering. She can write with authority about everything from classical Rome to the Dada movement of the 1920s, from the work of George Bernard Shaw to Samuel Pepys’ diary . . . her book is a magnificent achievement’ – Sunday Telegraph


‘Boddy’s book is a superb work of scholarship, spanning ancient Greece to Mike Tyson. Its reproduced lithographs and colour plates make the book, in its way, a handsome work of art in itself. . . Boddy referees this heavyweight 15-rounder with elegance, aplomb and rigour.’– Jonathan Rendall, New Statesman


‘compendious, and thoroughly fascinating . . . an excellent, well-written and beautifully illustrated book.’ – Daily Telegraph


‘In a history of the sport that dates back to Homer, Virgil and other ancient fight fans, Kasia Boddy, a lecturer in English at University College London, examines the strange attraction boxing holds for highbrow folk. She provides much merriment along the way as she explores the ways professional fighters excite the imagination of writers, artists and intellectuals.’ – The Economist


‘Boddy . . . intelligently takes up – via art, literature, film, and the media – the many issues that have historically veined the sport: “nationality, class, race, ethnicity, religion, politics, and different versions of masculinity,” plus dialectics like “brawn versus brains, boastfulness versus modesty, youth versus experience.” Her reach is considerable, but so is her grasp. The result is a sweeping critical history and a perfect power-to-weight ratio.’

Atlantic Monthly


‘Splendid and surprising. . . . The illustrations in Boxing alone are worth the price of the book. . . . The author’s research is thorough, and her writing is sharp and crisp. Boxing easily pierces the aforementioned haze that surrounds the sport and gets to the crooked heart of the allure. . . . A perfect, polished frame.’ – Chicago Tribune


‘Future champs may well carry Kasia Boddy’s book in their sports bags along with their gloves, gum shields and genital protectors.’ – Literary Review


‘In this ambitious book, Boddy provides a fascinating account of the ways in which boxing has been represented in literature and the visual arts from ancient Greece to the present . . . No other work attempts such an exhaustive investigation of boxing’s cultural history in the Western world, so this engagingly written, well-illustrated book will be welcomed by those interested in cultural history. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers, all levels.’



‘If you trace mans’ first footsteps on the planet you’d see much about him has changed – and some that has not – such as his ability and even his need to fight: not for survival alone but for a reason for existence, an identity to pass on, to aspire towards. Kasia Boddy’s Boxing: A Cultural History explores this journey and connects dots that explain why, how long and who we’ve been fighting . . .’ – Teddy Atlas


‘I’ve had a sneak preview of Kasia Boddy’s huge, lithe Boxing: A Cultural History, which is out in the spring from Reaktion. Boddy is the kind of writer whose intelligence can bring together and reveal the patterns and resonances between such unlikely contenders as Plato, Scorsese, Fielding, Dickens and Keith Haring. It’s a beautifully illustrated, expert, readable and startling expression of the dualities of all things.’

– Ali Smith, author of The Accidental


‘Kasia Boddy pursues a lively, wide-ranging critical survey of boxing in literature, film, and other media, a compendious engagement with a fantastically rich tradition. She attends to both the aesthetic and the signifying potential of boxing, which has attracted artists for three millennia not only because it inspires and challenges their creative impulses but because, as Boddy amply demonstrates, the ring has proven to be a lastingly useful venue for staging all manner of ideas about class, violence, history, gender, work, leisure, ideology, politics, race and nation, among other topics.’

– Carlo Rotella, author of Cut Time: An Education at the Fights and Good with Their Hands


‘The first thing that must be admired is the incredible richness of its sources. Boddy moves from classical Greece to contemporary fine art and mass culture and provides a wonderful synthesis of the writing and visual imaging of boxing. She writes with great clarity and draws this huge variety of material together with great ease. The research is very impressive. The text offers both an historical survey of the culture of boxing and the points of contact and connection across different periods. This is a very accomplished piece of research and writing.’ – Lynda Nead


To order online at the special price of $28, use the University of Chicago Press Secure Shopping Cart at the “Preferred Buyers Page” Be sure to have the keycode (AD9048) for this promotion handy.)

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