The heart not only drives our physical life, but throughout human history it has also been viewed as the seat of our deepest emotions. It has figured hugely if metaphorically in nearly every aspect of human civilization, and as the unending subject of literature, music and art. Yet until now there has not been a study of this paramount icon of love. Ole M. Hoystad ably fills this enormous gap with a compelling investigation into this epicentre of grief, joy and power. Firmly positioning the heart at the metaphorical and literal centre of human culture and history, Hoystad combs through religions and philosophies from the beginning of civilization to explore such disparate historical points as the Aztecs' ritual of removing the still-beating heart from a living sacrificial victim and offering it to the gods; homosexuality and the heart in Greek antiquity; European attempts to employ alchemy in service of the mysteries of love; and the connections between the heart and wisdom in Sufism.Hoystad charts how the heart has signified our essential desires, whether for love and passion in the medieval excesses of troubadour poetry and chivalric idealism, the body-soul dualism propounded by the Enlightenment, or even the modern notions of individualism expressed in the works of thinkers such as Nietzsche and Foucault. A provocative examination of the deepest vaults of our souls and the efforts of the many lonely hunters who have tried to unlock its secrets, "A History of the Heart" subverts the cliches to reveal a symbol of our fundamental humanity whose beats can be felt in every aspect of our lives.
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