A woman describes the male body, beginning with the torso--neck, chest, belly, genitals--then the appendages, the back, and finally the head. Her description features the appearance and uses of these anatomical parts from the perspective of female taste and needs. The essay is illustrated with strategically placed images of the human form in exotic settings, taken from Bernard Siegfried Albinus's remarkable treatise of anatomy of the mid-eighteenth century.


Simple words and feminist wit play off the images. Certain stereotypical male proclivities are included affectionately rather than disparagingly. The description mocks an encyclopedia entry, as if the narrator were communicating with readers who are completely unfamiliar with the species. The exercise works as an intriguing, multi-textured thought experiment.

Throughout this collection, the writer gives her twentieth-century sources for the illustrations, but unfortunately she does not provide their origin. The lacuna reminds us that this is not a historical or a social essay, but a work of art that combines words and pictures. The author calls these creative essays "stories."


The book in which this essay appeared won the Governor General's Award for English Fiction.

Primary Source

Forms of Devotion: Stories and Pictures



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